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Full text of "The tribes and castes of the Central Provinces of India"

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I 9 I 6 



Articles on Castes and Tribes of the Central 

Provinces in Alphaijetical Order 

The articles which are consitieird to be of most i^enenil intt 
are shown in capitals 

KUiMHAR {^Potter) 

KUNBI {Cultivator) 

Kunjra (Greengrocer) . 

Kuramwar (Shepherd) . 

KURMI (Cultivator) 

Lakhera ( Worker in lac) 

Lodhi (^I^andowtier and cultivator) 

Lobar {Blacksmith) 

Lorha (Growers of saxi-heinp) . 

Mahar ( Weaver and labourer) . 

Mahli (Forest tribe) 

Majhwar (Forest tribe) . 

Mai (Forest tribe) 

Mala (Cotton-7ueaver and labourer) 

Mali (Gardener and vegetable-grower) 

Mallah (Boatmati and fisherman) 

Man a (Forest tribe, cultivator) . 

Manljhao (/Religious mendicafit) 

Mang (Laboierer and village musician) 

Mang-Garori (Criminal caste) . 

Manihar (Pedlar) 

Mannewar (Forest tribe) 

Maratha (Soldier, cultivator and service) 




1 12 
I 20 




Mehtar (^Sweeper and scavenger') 

Meo [Tribe) 

Mlna or Deswali {Non-Aryan tribe, cultivator) 

Mirasi {Bard and genealogist) . 

MOCHI (Shoemaker) 

Mo war [Cultivator) 

Murha [Digger and }iavvy) . , 

Nagasia {^Forest tribe) . 

Nahal {Forest tribe) 

Nai (Barber) . 

Naoda {Boatman and fisherman) 

Nat {Acrobat) . 

Nunia {Salt-refiner, digger and navvy) 

Ojha {Augur and soothsayer) . 

Oraon {Forest tribe) . 

Paik {Soldier, cultivator) 

Panka {Labourer and village watchmaii) 

Panwar Rajput {Landowner ai7d cultiiiator) 

Pardhan {Minstrel and priest) . 

Pardhi {Hunter and fowlej-) 

Parja {Forest tribe) 

Pasi ( Toddy-drawer and labourer) 

Patwa {Maker of silk braid and thread) 

Pindari {Freebooter) . 

Prabhu ( Writer and clerk) 

Raghuvansi {Cultivator) 

Rajjhar {Agricultural labourer) 

Rajput {Soldier and landowner) 

Rajput Clans 

















Nag van si. 















2 C 2 






Raj war {Forest tribe) . . . .470 

Rfimosi {yUlac^e watchmeji and labourers, formn-ly tliic-iies) 472 

Rangrez {Dyer) . . . -477 

V^^tMXx^, {Forest tribe and culiii'alors, foniierly soldiers) . 47 cj 

Sanaurhia {Criminal tJneving caste) .... 483 

Sansia ( Vagrant criuiinal tribe) . . . .488 

S?i.ns\ai {\2 nSi) {ATason and digger) .... 496 

Savar {Forest tribe) . . . .500 

Sonjhara {Gold-ivasher) . . . . -509 

Sudh {Cultivator) . . . . . .514 

SUNAR {Goldsmith and silversmith) . . .517 

S\.m^\ {Liqiior distiller) . . '^ . -534 

T^xnera. {Copper stnith) . . . . . • 53^^ 

Taonla. (Soldier and labourer) . . . -539 

Teli {Oilman) . . . . .542 

Thug {Criminal community of murderers by strangulation) . 558 

Turi (Bamboo-worker) . . . . . .588 

Velama (Cultivator) . . . . . -593 

\^\D'[J'R {Village accountant, clerk and writer) . . -596 

Wiighya {Religious mefidicant) . . .603 

Yerukala (Criminal thieving caste) . . . .606 


97. Potter and his wheel 

98. Group of Kunbis .... 

99. Figures of animals made for Pola festival . 
100. Hindu boys on stilts 
loi. Throwing stilts into the water at the Pola festival 

102. Carrying out the dead 

103. Pounding rice .... 

104. Sowing ..... 

105. Threshing .... 

106. Winnowing .... 

107. Women grinding wheat and husking rice . 

108. Group of women in Hindustani dress 

109. Coloured Plate : Examples of spangles worn by w( 

the forehead .... 
I I o. Weaving : sizing the warp 

111. Winding thread .... 

112. Bride and bridegroom with marriage crowns 

113. Bullocks drawing water with mot . 

114. Mang musicians with drums 

115. Statue of Maratha leader, Bimbaji Bhonsla, in armour 

1 16. Image of the god Vishnu as Vithoba 

1 17. Coolie women with babies slung at the side 

1 18. Hindu men showing the choti or scalp-lock 

1 1 9. Snake-charmer with cobras 

120. Transplanting rice 

121. Group of Pardhans 

122. Little girls playing 





123. Gujarati girls doing figures with strings and sticks 

124. Ornaments . . • • • 

125. Teli's oil-press . . . • • 

126. The Goddess Kali . . . • 

127. Waghya mendicants , . . • 





a has the sound of u in but or nmrmur. 

a , 

a in bath or tar. 

e , 

e in ecarte or ai in maid. 

i , 

i in bit, or (as a final letter) of y in sulky. 

i , 

ee in beet. 


in bore or bowl. 

u , 

u in put or bull. 

u , 

00 in /(7<9r or boot. 

The plural of caste names and a few common Hindustani words 
is formed by adding s in the English manner according to ordinary 
usage, though this is not, of course, the Hindustani plural. 

Note. — The rupee contains i6 annas, and an anna is of the same 
value as a penny. A pice is a quarter of an anna, or a farthing. 
Rs. 1-8 signifies one rupee and eight annas. A lakh is a hundred 
thousand, and a krore ten million. 





list of paragraphs 

1. Traditions of origin. 6. Breeding pigs for sacrifices. 

2. Caste subdivisions. 7. The goddess Demeter. 

3. Social Acstoms. 8. Estimation of the pig m India. 

4. The Kumhdr as a village 9. The buffalo as a corn-god. 

menial. 10. The Dasahra festival. 

5. Occupation. il. The goddess Devi. 

Kumhar, Kumbhar. — The caste of potters, the name i. Tradi- 
being derived from the Sanskrit kunibh, a water-pot. The ''°"? °^ 

_ ■*■ origin. 

Kumhars numbered nearly 120,000 persons in the Central 
Provinces in 1 9 1 i and were most numerous in the northern 
and eastern or Hindustani-speaking Districts, where earthen 
vessels have a greater vogue than in the south. The caste 
is of course an ancient one, vessels of earthenware having 
probably been in use at a very early period, and the old 
Hindu scriptures consequently give various accounts of its 
origin from mixed marriages between the four classical 
castes. " Concerning the traditional parentage of the caste," 
Sir H. Risley writes,^ " there seems to be a wide difference 
of opinion among the recognised authorities on the subject. 
Thus the Brahma Vaivartta Purana says that the Kumbhakar 
or maker of water-jars {kmnbha), is born of a Vaishya woman 
by a Brahman father ; the Parasara Samhita makes the father 
a Malakar (gardener) and the mother a Chamar ; while the 
Parasara Padhati holds that the ancestor of the caste was 
begotten of a Tili woman by a Pattikar or weaver of silk 
cloth. Sir Monier Williams again, in his Sanskrit Dictionary, 
describes them as the offspring of a Kshatriya woman by a 
Brahman. No importance can of course be attached to 

' Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Kumhar. 

4 KUMHAR part 

such statements as the above from the point of view of actual 
fact, but they are interesting as showing the view taken of 
the formation of castes by the old Brahman writers, and 
also the position given to the Kumhar at the time when they 
wrote. This varies from a moderately respectable to a very 
humble one according to the different accounts of his lineage. 
The caste themselves have a legend of the usual Brahmanical 
type : " In the Kritayuga, when Maheshwar (Siva) intended 
to marry the daughter of Hemvanta, the Devas and Asuras ^ 
assembled at Kailas (Heaven). Then a question arose as to 
who should furnish the vessels required for the ceremony, 
and one Kulalaka, a Brahman, was ordered to make them. 
Then Kulalaka stood before the assembly with folded hands, 
and prayed that materials might be given to him for making 
the pots. So Vishnu gave his Sudarsana (discus) to be used 
as a wheel, and the mountain of Mandara was fixed as a 
pivot beneath it to hold it up. The scraper was Adi Kiirma 
the tortoise, and a rain-cloud was used for the water-tub. 
So Kulalaka made the pots and gave them to Maheshwar 
for his marriage, and ever since his descendants have been 
known as Kumbhakar or maker of water-jars." 
Caste The Kumhars have a number of subcastes, many of 

which, as might be expected, are of the territorial type and 
indicate the different localities from which they migrated to 
the Central Provinces. Such are the Malwi from Malwa, the 
Telenga from the Telugu country in Hyderabad, the Pardeshi 
from northern India and the Maratha from the Maratha 
Districts. Other divisions are the Lingayats who belong to 
the sect of this name, the Gadhewal or Gadhere who make 
tiles and carry them about on donkeys {gadha), the Bardia 
who use bullocks for transport and the Sungaria who keep 
pigs {siiar). Certain endogamous groups have arisen simply 
from differences in the method of working. Thus the 
Hathgarhia " mould vessels with their hands only without 
using the wheel ; the Goria ^ make white or red pots only 
and not black ones ; the Kurere mould their vessels on a 
stone slab revolving on a stick and not on a wheel ; while 
the Chakere are Kumhars who use the wheel (chdk) in 

' Gods and demons. ^ Hath, hand and garhna, to make or mould. 

3 Gora, white or red, applied to Europeans. 




localities where other Kumhars do not use it. The Chhutakia 
and Rakhotia are illegitimate sections, being the offspring of 
kept women. 

Girls are married at an early age when their parents can 3- Social 
afford it, the matches being usually arranged at caste feasts. 
In Chanda parents who allow a daughter to become adolesc- 
ent while still unwed are put out of caste, but elsewhere 
the rule is by no means so strict. The ceremony is of the 
normal type and a Brahman usually officiates, but in Betul 
it is performed by the Sawasa or husband of the bride's 
paternal aunt. After the wedding the couple are given 
kneaded flour to hold in their hands and snatch from each 
other as an emblem of their trade. In Mandla a bride- 
price of Rs. 50 is paid. 

The Kumhars recognise divorce and the remarriage of 
widows. If an unmarried girl is detected in criminal in- 
timacy with a member of the caste, she has to give a feast 
to the caste-fellows and pay a fine of Rs. 1-4 and five locks 
of her hair are also cut off by way of purification. The 
caste usually burn the dead, but the Lingayat Kumhars 
always bury them in accordance with the practice of their 
sect. They worship the ordinary Hindu deities and make 
an offering to the implements of their trade on the festival 
of Deothan Igaras. The village Brahman serves as their 
priest. In Balaghat a Kumhar is put out of caste if a dead 
cat is found in his house. At the census of 1901 the Kum- 
har was ranked with the impure castes, but his status is 
not really so low. Sir D. Ibbetson said of him : " He is a 
true village menial ; his social standing is very low, far below 
that of the Lobar and not much above the Chamar. His 
association with that impure beast, the donkey, the animal 
sacred to Sitala, the smallpox goddess, pollutes him and also 
his readiness to carry manure and sweepings." As already 
seen there are in the Central Provinces Sungaria and 
Gadheria subcastes which keep donkeys and pigs, and these 
are regarded as impure. But in most Districts the Kumhar 
ranks not much below the Barhai and Lobar, that is in what 
I have designated the grade of village menials above the 
impure and below the cultivating castes. In Bengal the 
Kumhars have a much hisrher status and Brahmans will 


4. The 

Kumhar as 
a village 

5. Occupa- 

take water from their hands. But the gradation of caste in 
Bengal differs very greatly from that of other parts of India. 

The Kumhar is not now paid regularly by dues from 
the cultivators like other village menials, as the ordinary 
system of sale has no doubt been found more convenient in 
his case. But he sometimes takes the soiled grass from the 
stalls of the cattle and gives pots free to the cultivator in 
exchange. On Akti day, at the beginning of the agricultural 
year, the village Kumhar of Saugor presents five pots with 
covers on them to each cultivator and receives 2\ lbs. of 
grain in exchange. One of these the tenant fills with water 
and presents to a Brahman and the rest he reserves for his 
own purposes. On the occasion of a wedding also the bride- 
groom's party take the bride to the Kumharin's house as 
part of the sohdg ceremony for making the marriage pro- 
pitious. The Kumhar seats the bride on his wheel and 
turns it round with her seven times. The Kumharin 
presents her with seven new pots, which are taken back to 
the house and used at the wedding. They are filled with 
water and are supposed to represent the seven seas. If any 
two of these pots accidentally clash together it is supposed 
that the bride and bridegroom will quarrel during their 
married life. In return for this the Kumharin receives a 
present of clothes. At a funeral also the Kumhar must 
supply thirteen vessels which are known as ghats, and must 
also replace the broken earthenware. Like the other village 
menials at the harvest he takes a new vessel to the cultivator 
in his field and receives a present of grain. Tl'iese customs 
appear to indicate his old position as one of the menials 
or general servants of the village ranking below the cultivators. 
Grant-Duff also includes the potter in his list of village 
menials in the Maratha villages.^ 

The potter is not particular as to the clay he uses and 
does not go far afield for the finer qualities, but digs it from 
the nearest place in the neighbourhood where he can get it 
free of cost. Red and black clay are employed, the former 
being obtained near the base of hills or on high-lying land, 
probably of the laterite formation, and the latter in the beds 
of tanks or streams. When the clay is thoroughly kneaded 

' History of the Marathas, edition 1878, vol. i. p. 26. 


and ready for use a lump of it is placed on the centre of the 
wheel. The potter seats himself in front of the wheel and 
fixes his stick or chakrait into the slanting hole in its upper 
surface. With this stick the wheel is made to revolve very 
rapidly, and sufficient impetus is given to it to keep it in 
motion for several minutes. The potter then lays aside the 
stick and with his hands moulds the lump of clay into the 
shape required, stopping every now and then to give the 
wheel a fresh spin as it loses its momentum. When satisfied 
with the shape of his vessel he separates it from the lump 
with a piece of string, and places it on a bed of ashes to 
prevent it sticking to the ground. The wheel is either a 
circular disc cut out of a single piece of stone about a yard 
in diameter, or an ordinary wooden wheel with spokes forming 
two diameters at right angles. The rim is then thickened 
with the addition of a coating of mud strengthened with 
fibre.^ The articles made by the potter are ordinary circular 
vessels or gharas used for storing and collecting water, larger 
ones for keeping grain, flour and vegetables, and surdJiis or 
amphoras for drinking-water. In the manufacture of these 
last salt and saltpetre are mixed with the clay to make them 
more porous and so increase their cooling capacity. A very 
useful thing is the small saucer which serves as a lamp, being 
filled with oil on which a lighted wick is floated. These 
saucers resemble those found in the excavations of Roman 
remains. Earthen vessels are more commonly used, both for 
cooking and eating purposes among the people of northern 
India, and especially by Muhammadans, than among the 
Marathas, and, as already noticed, the Kumhar caste musters 
strong in the north of the Province. An earthen vessel is 
polluted if any one of another caste takes food or drink from 
it and is at once discarded. On the occasion of a death all 
the vessels in the house are thrown away and a new set 
obtained, and the same measure is adopted at the HoH festival 
and on the occasion of an eclipse, and at various other cere- 
monial purifications, such as that entailed if a member of the 
household has had maggots in a wound. On this account 
cheapness is an indispensable quality in pottery, and there is 

1 The above description is taken on Pottay ami Glassware by Mr. 
from the Central Provinces Monograph Jowers, p. 4. 

8 KUMHAR part 

no opening for the Kumhar to improve his art. Another 
product of the Kumhar's industry is the chilani or pipc-bovvl. 
This has the usual opening for inhaling the smoke but no 
stem, an impromptu stem being made by the hands and the 
smoke inhaled through it. As the chilam is not touched by 
the mouth, Hindus of all except the impure castes can smoke 
it together, passing it round, and Hindus can also smoke it 
with Muhammadans. 

It is a local belief that, if an earthen pot is filled with 
salt and plastered over, the rains will stop until it is opened. 
This device is adopted when the fall is excessive, but, on 
the other hand, if there is drought, the people sometimes 
think that the potter has used it to keep off the rain, 
because he cannot pursue his calling when the clay is very 
wet. And on occasions of a long break in the rains, they 
have been known to attack his shop and break all his 
vessels under the influence of this belief The potter is 
sometimes known as Prajapati or the ' The Creator,' in 
accordance with the favourite comparison made by ancient 
writers of the moulding of his pots with the creation of human 
beings, the justice of which will be recognised by any one 
who watches the masses of mud on a whirling wheel growing 
into shapely vessels in the potter's creating hands. 
6. Breed- Certain Kumhars as well as the Dhimars make the 

for saCTi- breeding of pigs a means of subsistence, and they sell these 
fices. pigs for sacrifices at prices varying from eight annas (8d.) to 

a rupee. The pigs are sacrificed by the Gonds to their god 
Bura Deo and by Hindus to the deity Bhainsasur, or the 
buffalo demon, for the protection of the crops. Bhainsasur 
is represented by a stone in the fields, and when crops are 
beaten down at night by the wind it is supposed that Bhain- 
sasur has passed over them and trampled them down. Hindus, 
usually of the lower castes, offer pigs to Bhainsasur to pro- 
pitiate him and preserve their crops from his ravages, but 
they cannot touch the impure pig themselves. What they 
have to do, therefore, is to pay the Kumhar the price of the 
pig and get him to offer it to Bhainsasur on their behalf 
The Kumhar goes to the god and sacrifices the pig and then 
takes the body home and eats it, so that his trade is a profit- 
able one, while conversely to sacrifice a pig without partaking 


of its flesh must necessarily be bitter to the frugal Hindu 
mind, and this indicates the importance of the deity who is 
to be propitiated by the offering. The first question which 
arises in connection with this curious custom is why pigs 
should be sacrificed for the preservation of the crops ; and 
the reason appears to be tiiat the wild pig is the animal which, 
at present, mainly damages the crops. 

In ancient Greece pigs were offered to Demeter, the corn- 7. The 
goddess, for the protection of the crops, and there is good ^emet'er 
reason to suppose that the conceptions of Demeter herself 
and the lovely Proserpine grew out of the worship of the 
pig, and that both goddesses were in the beginning merely 
the deified pig. The highly instructive passage in which Sir 
J. G. Frazer advances this theory is reproduced almost in full:^ 
" Passing next to the corn-goddess Demeter, and remembering 
that in European folklore the pig is a common embodiment 
of the corn-spirit, we may now ask whether the pig, which 
was so closely associated with Demeter, may not originally 
have been the goddess herself in animal form ? The pig was 
sacred to her ; in art she was portrayed carrying or accom- 
panied by a pig ; and the pig was regularly sacrificed in her 
mysteries, the reason assigned being that the pig injures the 
corn and is therefore an enemy of the goddess. But after 
an animal has been conceived as a god, or a god as an animal, 
it sometimes happens, as we have seen, that the god sloughs 
off his animal form and becomes purely anthropomorphic ; 
and that then the animal which at first had been slain in the 
character of the god, comes to be viewed as a victim offered 
to the god on the ground of its hostility to the deity ; in 
short, that the god is sacrificed to himself on the ground that 
he is his own enemy. This happened to Dionysus and it 
may have happened to Demeter also. And in fact the 
rites of one of her festivals, the Thesmophoria, bear out the 
view that originally the pig was an embodiment of the corn- 
goddess herself, either Demeter or her daughter and double 
Proserpine. The Thesmophoria was an autumn festival 
celebrated by women alone in October, and appears to have 
represented with mourning rites the descent of Proserpine 
(or Demeter) into the lower world, and with joy her return 

1 Golden Bough, ii. pp. 299, 301. 


from the dead. Hence the name Descent or Ascent 
variously applied to the first, and the name Kalligeneia (fair- 
born) applied to the third day of the festival. Now from 
an old scholium on Lucian we learn some details about the 
mode of celebrating the Thesmophoria, which shed important 
light on the part of the festival called the Descent or the 
Ascent. The scholiast tells us that it was customary at the 
Thesmophoria to throw pigs, cakes of dough, and branches 
of pine-trees into ' the chasms of Demeter and Proserpine,' 
which appear to have been sacred caverns or vaults. 

" In these caverns or vaults there were said to be serpents, 
which guarded the caverns and consumed most of the flesh 
of the pigs and dough-cakes which were thrown in. After- 
wards — apparently at the next annual festival — the decayed 
remains of the pigs, the cakes, and the pine-branches were 
fetched by women called ' drawers,' who, after observing rules 
of ceremonial purity for three days, descended into the 
caverns, and, frightening away the serpents by clapping their 
hands, brought up the remains and placed them on the altar. 
Whoever got a piece of the decayed flesh and cakes, and 
sowed it with the seed-corn in his field, was believed to be 
sure of a good crop. 

" To explain this rude and ancient rite the following 
legend was told. At the moment when Pluto carried off 
Proserpine, a swineherd called Eubuleus chanced to be 
herding his swine on the spot, and his herd was engulfed 
in the chasm down which Pluto vanished with Proserpine. 
Accordingly, at the Thesmophoria pigs were annually thrown 
into caverns to commemorate the disappearance of the swine 
of Eubuleus. It follows from this that the casting of the 
pigs into the vaults at the Thesmophoria formed part of the 
dramatic representation of Proserpine's descent into the lower 
world ; and as no image of Proserpine appears to have been 
thrown in, we may infer that the descent of the pigs was not 
so much an accompaniment of her descent as the descent 
itself, in short, that the pigs were Proserpine. Afterwards, 
when Proserpine or Demeter (for the two are equivalent) 
became anthropomorphic, a reason had to be found for the 
custom of throwing pigs into caverns at her festival ; and 
this was done by saying that when Pluto carried off Proser- 


pine, there happened to be some swine browsing near, which 
were swallowed up along with her. The story is obviously 
a forced and awkward attempt to bridge over the gulf between 
the old conception of the corn-spirit as a pig and the new 
conception of her as an anthropomorphic goddess. A trace 
of the older conception survived in the legend that when the 
sad mother was searching for traces of the vanished Proserpine, 
the footprints of the lost one were obliterated by the foot- 
prints of a pig ; originally, we may conjecture, the footprints 
of the pig were the footprints of Proserpine and of Demcter 
herself. A consciousness of the intimate connection of the 
pig with the corn lurks in the legend that the swineherd 
Eubuleus was a brother of Triptolemus, to whom Demeter 
first imparted the secret of the corn. Indeed, according to 
one version of the story, Eubuleus himself received, jointly 
with his brother Triptolemus, the gift of the corn from 
Demeter as a reward for revealing to her the fate of Proser- 
pine. Further, it is to be noted that at the Thesmophoria 
the women appear to have eaten swine's flesh. The meal, 
if I am right, must have been a solemn sacrament or 
communion, the worshippers partaking of the body of the 

We thus see how the pig in ancient Greece was wor- 8. Estima- 
shipped as a corn - deity because it damaged the crops 'and th°e"pi<r m 
subsequently became an anthropomorphic goddess. It is India, 
suggested that pigs are offered to Bhainsasur by the 
Hindus for the same reason. But there is no Hindu 
deity representing the pig, this animal on the contrary 
being regarded as impure. It seems doubtful, however, 
whether this was always so. In Rajputana on the stone 
which the Regent of Kotah set up to commemorate the 
abolition of forced taxes were carved the effigies of the sun, 
the moon, the cow and the hog, with an imprecation on 
whoever should revoke the edict.^ Colonel Tod says that 
the pig was included as being execrated by all classes, but 
this seems very doubtful. It would scarcely occur to any 
Hindu nowadays to associate the image of the impure pig with 
those of the sun, moon and cow, the representations of 
three of his greatest deities. Rather it gives some reason for 

' Rajasthati, ii. p. 524. 

buffalo as a 

12 KUMHAR part 

supposing that the pig was once worshipped, and the Rajputs 
still do not hold the wild boar impure, as they hunt it and 
eat its flesh. Moreover, Vishnu in his fourth incarnation 
was a boar. The Gonds regularly offer pigs to their great 
god Bura Deo, and though they now offer goats as well, this 
seems to be a later innovation. The principal sacrifice of the 
early Romans was the Suovetaurilia or the sacrifice of a pig, 
a ram and a bull. The order of the words, M. Reinach 
remarks,^ is significant as showing the importance formerly 
attached to the pig or boar. Since the pig was the principal 
sacrificial animal of the primitive tribes, the Gonds and 
Baigas, its connection with the ritual of an alien and at one 
time hostile religion may have strengthened the feeling of 
aversion for it among the Hindus, which would naturally be 
engendered by its own dirty habits. 
9. The It seems possible then that the Hindus reverenced the wild 

boar in the past as one of the strongest and fiercest animals of 
the forest and also as a destroyer of the crops. And they 
still make sacrifices of the pig to guard their fields from his 
ravages. These sacrifices, however, are not offered to any 
deity who can represent a deified pig but to Bhainsasur, the 
deified buffalo. The explanation seems to be that in former 
times, when forests extended over most of the country, the 
cultivator had in the wild buffalo a direr foe than the wild 
pig. And one can well understand how the peasant, winning 
a scanty subsistence from his poor fields near the forest, and 
seeing his harvest destroyed in a night by the trampling of a 
herd of these great brutes against whom his puny weapons 
were powerless, looked on them as terrible and malignant 
deities. The sacrifice of a buffalo would be beyond the 
means of a single man, and the animal is now more or less 
sacred as one of the cow tribe. But the annual joint sacri- 
fice of one or more buffaloes is a regular feature of the 
Dasahra festival and extends over a great part of India. In 
Betul and other districts the procedure is that on the Dasahra 
day, or a day before, the Mang and Kotwar, two of the lowest 
village menials, take a buffalo bull and bring it to the village 
proprietor, who makes a cut on its nose and draws blood. 
Then it is taken all round the village and to the shrines of 

1 Orphdiis, p. 152. 


the gods, and in the evening it is killed and the Mang and 
Kotvvar eat the flesh. It is now believed that if the blood 
of a buffalo does not fall at Dasahra some epidemic will 
attack the village, but as there are no longer any wild 
buffaloes except in the denser forests of one or two Districts, 
the original meaning of the rite might naturally have been 

The Dasahra festival probably marks the autumnal equinox 10. The 
and also the time v/hen the sowing of wheat and other fg^t^vaP 
spring crops begins. Many Hindus still postpone sowing 
the wheat until after Dasahra, even though it might be 
convenient to begin before, especially as the festival goes by 
the lunar month and its date varies in different years by 
more than a fortnight. The name signifies the tenth day, and 
prior to the festival a fast of nine days is observed, when the 
pots of wheat corresponding to the gardens of Adonis are 
sown and quickly sprout up. This is an imitation of the 
sowing and growth of the real crop and is meant to ensure its 
success. During these nine days it is said that the goddess 
Devi was engaged in mortal combat with the buffalo demon 
Mahisasur or Bhainsasur, and on the tenth day or the 
Dasahra she slew him. The fast is explained as being 
observed in order to help her to victory, but it is really 
perhaps a fast in connection with the growing of the crops. 
A similar nine days' fast for the crops was observed by the 

Devi signifies ^ the goddtss' par excellence. She is often n. The 
the tutelary goddess of the village and of the family, and is |)°'|,'/*^^^ 
held to have been originally Mother Earth, which may be 
supposed to be correct. In tracts where the people of 
northern and southern India meet she is identified with 
Anna Purna, the corn - goddess of the Telugu country ; 
and in her form of Gauri or ' the Yellow One ' she is perhaps 
herself the yellow corn. As Gauri she is worshipped at 
weddings in conjunction with Ganesh or Ganpati, the god of 
Good Fortune ; and it is probably in honour of the harvest 
colour that Hindus of the upper castes wear yellow at 

^ The sacrifice is now falling into abeyance, as landowners refuse to supply 
the buffalo. 

2 Pr. Jevons, Introduction to the History of Religion, p. 368. 

14 KUMHAR i'Art 

their weddings and consider it lucky. A Brahman also 
prefers to wear yellow when eating his food. It has been 
seen ^ that red is the lucky colour of the lower castes of 
Hindus, and the reason probably is that the shrines of their 
gods are stained red with the blood of the animals sacrificed. 
High-caste Hindus no longer make animal sacrifices, and 
their offerings to Siva, Vishnu and Devi consist of food, 
flowers and blades of corn. Thus yellow would be similarly 
associated with the shrines of the gods. All Hindu brides 
have their bodies rubbed with yellow turmeric, and the 
principal religious flower, the marigold, is orange - yellow. 
Yellow is, however, also lucky as being the colour of Vishnu 
or the Sun, and a yellow flag is waved above his great temple 
at Ramtek on the occasion of the fair. Thus Devi as the 
corn-goddess perhaps corresponds to Demeter, but she is not 
in this form an animal goddess. The Hindus worshipping 
Mother Earth, as all races do in the early stage of religion, 
may by a natural and proper analogy have ascribed the gift of 
the corn to her from whom it really comes, and have identi- 
fied her with the corn-goddess. This is by no means a full 
explanation of the goddess Devi, who has many forms. As 
Parvati, the hill-maiden, and Durga, the inaccessible one, she 
is the consort of Siva in his character of the mountain-god of 
the Himalayas ; as Kali, the devourer of human flesh, she 
is perhaps the deified tiger ; and she may have assimilated 
yet more objects of worship into her wide divinity. But 
there seems no special reason to hold that she is anywhere 
believed to be the deified buffalo ; and the probable explana- 
tion of the Dasahra rite would therefore seem to be that the 
buffalo was at first venerated as the corn-god because, like 
the pig in Greece, he was most destructive to the crops, and a 
buffalo was originally slaughtered and eaten sacramentally 
as an act of worship. At a later period the divinity attach- 
ing to the corn was transferred to Devi, an anthropomorphic 
deity of a higher class, and in order to explain the customary 
slaughter of the buffalo, which had to be retained, the story 
became current that the beneficent goddess fought and slew 
the buffalo-demon which injured the crops, for the benefit 
of her worshippers, and the fast was observed and the 

' Vide article on Lakhcra. 


buffalo sacrificed in commemoration of this event. It is 
possible that the sacrifice of the buffalo may have been a 
non-Aryan rite, as the Mundas still offer a buffalo to Deswali, 
their forest god, in the sacred grove ; and the Korwas 
of Sarguja have i)eriodical sacrifices to Kali in which many 
buffaloes are slaughtered. In the pictures of her fight with 
Bhainsasur, Devi is shown as riding on a tiger, and the 
uneducated might imagine the struggle to have resembled 
that between a tiger and a buffalo. As the destroyer of 
buffaloes and deer which graze on the crops the tiger may 
even be considered the cultivator's friend. But in the rural 
tracts Bhainsasur himself is still venerated in the guise of a 
corn-deity, and pig are perhaps offered to him as the animals 
which nowadays do most harm to the crops. 

K U N B I 

[This article is based on the information collected for the District Gazetteers 
of the Central Provinces, manuscript notes furnished by Mr. A. K. Smith, C. S., 
and from papers by Pandit Pyare Lai Misra and Munshi Kanhya Lai. The 
Kunbis are treated in the Poona and Klidndesh volumes of the Bombay Gazetlier. 
The caste has been taken as typical of the Marathi-speaking Districts, and a 
fairly full description of the marriage and other ceremonies has therefore been 
given, some information on houses, dress and food being also reproduced from 
the \Va7'dha zxi^ Yeotmal District Gazetteers. 'Y • 


1. Distribution of the caste and 12. 

origin of name. 13. 

2. Settlement in the Central Pro- 14. 

viftces. 1 5 • 

3. Siibcastes. 1 6. 

4. The cultivating status. 1 7. 

5. Exogamous septs. 18. 

6. Restrictions on marriage of 

relatives. 1 9. 

7. Betrothal and marriage. 20. 

8. Polygamy and divorce. 21. 

9. Widow-marriage. 22. 

10. Customs at birth. 23. 

11. Sixth- a7id twelfth-day cere- 24. 


Devices for procuring children. 

Love charms. 

Disposal of the dead. 



The Pola festival. 

Muham^nadan teiidcncies of 
Berar Kujtbis. 

Villages a?id houses. 



Clothes aftd ornaments. 

The Kunbi as cultivator. 

Social and inoral charac- 

I. Distri- 
bution of 
the caste 
and origin 
of name. 

KunM. — The great agricultural caste of the Maratha 
country. In the Central Provinces and Berar the Kunbis 
numbered nearly 1,400,000 persons in 191 1 ; they belong 
to the Nagpur, Chanda, Bhandara, Wardha, Nimar and 
Betul Districts of the Central Provinces. In Berar their 
strength was 800,000, or nearly a third of the total popula- 
tion. Here they form the principal cultivating class over 
the whole area except in the jungles of the north and south, 
but muster most strongly in the Buldana District to the 
west, where in some taluks nearly half the population 


^^ ■■*di t'B Tiji ■ "*■" 


belongs to the Kunbi caste. In the combined Province 
they are the most numerous caste except the Gonds. The 
name has various forms in Hombay, beinc; Kunbi or Kulambi 
in the Dcccan, Kulwadi in the south Konkan, Kanbi in 
Gujarat, and Kulbi in l^elgaum. In Sanskrit inscriptions 
it is given as Kutumbika (householder), and hence it has 
been derived from kutmnba^ a family. A chronicle of the 
eleventh century quoted by Forbes speaks of the Kutumbiks 
or cultivators of the grams or small villages.^ Another 
writer describing the early Rajput dynasties says : " " The 
villagers were Koutombiks (householders) or husbandmen 
(Karshuks) ; the village headmen were Putkeels (patels)." 
Another suggested derivation is from a Dravidian root kiil^ 
a husbandman or labourer ; while that favoured by the 
caste and their neighbours is from kun, a root, or kan^ grain, 
and bif seed ; but this is too ingenious to be probable. 

It is stated that the Kunbis entered Khandesh from 2. Settie- 
Gujarat in the eleventh century, being forced to leave |he"centrai 
Gujarat by the encroachments of Rajput tribes, driven Provinces. 
south before the early Muhammadan invaders of northern 
India.^ From Khandesh they probably spread into Berar 
and the adjoining Nagpur and Wardha Districts. It seems 
probable that their first settlement in Nagpur and Wardha 
took place not later than the fourteenth century, because 
during the subsequent period of Gond rule we find the offices 
of Deshmukh and Deshpandia in existence in this area. 
The Deshmukh was the manager or headman of a circle of 
villages and was responsible for apportioning and collecting 
the land revenue, while the Deshpandia was a head patwari 
or accountant. The Deshmukhs were usually the leading 
Kunbis, and the titles are still borne by many families in 
Wardha and Nagpur. These offices "* belong to the Maratha 
country, and it seems necessary to suppose that their intro- 
duction into Wardha and Berar dates from a period at least 
as early as the fourteenth century, when these territories 
were included in the dominions of the l^ahmani kings of 
Bijapur. A subsequent large influx of Kunbis into Wardha 

^ Rdsmdia, i. p. 100. '^ Bombay Gazetteer, vol. i. part ii. 

- Ibidem, p. 241. p. 34. 

^ Khandesh Gazetteer, p. 62. 




and Nagpur took place in the eighteenth century with the 
conquest of Raghuji Bhonsla and the establishment of the 
Maratha kingdom of Nagpur. Traces of these separate 
immigrations survive in the subdivisions of the caste, which 
will now be mentioned. 
3. Sub- The internal structure of the Kunbi caste in the Central 

Provinces shows that it is a mixed occupational body 
recruited from different classes of the population. The Jhare 
or jungly ^ Kunbis are the oldest immigrants and have no 
doubt an admixture of Gond blood. They do not break 
their earthen vessels after a death in the house. With 
them may be classed the Manwa Kunbis of the Nagpur 
District ; these appear to be a group recruited from the 
Manas, a primitive tribe who were dominant in Chanda 
perhaps even before the advent of the Gonds. The Manwa 
Kunbi women wear their cloths drawn up so as to expose 
the thigh like the Gonds, and have some other primitive 
practices. They do not employ Brahmans at their marriages, 
but consult a Mahar Mohturia or soothsayer to fix the date 
of the ceremony. Other Kunbis will not eat with the Manwas, 
and the latter retaliate in the usual manner by refusing 
to accept food from them ; and say that they are superior 
to other Kunbis because they always use brass vessels for 
cooking and not earthen ones. Among the other subcastes 
in the Central Provinces are the Khaire, who take their 
name from the khair" or catechu tree, presumably because 
they formerly prepared catechu ; this is a regular occupa- 
tion of the forest tribes, with whom it may be supposed that 
the Khaire have some affinity. The Dhanoje are those who 
took to the occupation of tending dhaii ^ or small stock, and 
they are probably an offshoot of the Dhangar or shepherd 
caste whose name is similarly derived. Like the Dhangar 
women they wear cocoanut-shell bangles, and the Manwa 
I Kunbis also do this ; these bangles are not broken when 
I a child is born, and hence the Dhanojes and Manwas are 
I looked down on by the other subcastes, who refuse to 
remove their leaf-plates after a feast. The name of the 

' VromJiJidr, a tree or shrub. ^ Dhan properly means wealth, cj. 

the two meanings of tlie word stock 
^ Acacia catechu. in English. 


Khedule subcaste may be derived from kheda a village, 
while another version given by Mr. Kitts ' is that it signifies 
' A beardless )outh.' The highest subcaste in the Central 
Provinces are the Tirole or Tilole, who now claim to be 
Rajputs. They say that their ancestors came from Thcrol 
in Rajputfma, and, taking to agriculture, gradually became 
merged with the Kunbis. Another more probable deriva- 
tion of the name is from the /// or sesamum plant. The 
families who held the hereditary office of Dcshmukh, which 
conferred a considerable local position, were usually members 
of the Tirole subcaste, and they have now developed into a 
sort of aristocratic branch of the caste, and marry among 
themselves when matches can be arranged. They do not 
allow the remarriage of widows nor permit their women to 
accompany the wedding procession. The Wandhekars are 
another group which also includes some Deshmukh families, 
and ranks next to the Tiroles in position. Mr. Kitts re- 
cords a large number of subcastes in Berar.^ Among them 
are some groups from northern India, as the Hindustani, 
Pardesi, Dholewar, Jaiswar and Singrore ; these are prob- 
ably Kurmis who have settled in Eerar and become 
amalgamated with the Kunbis. Similarly the Tailanges 
and Munurwars appear to be an offshoot of the great Kapu 
caste of cultivators in the Telugu country. The Wanjari 
subcaste is a fairly large one and almost certainly repre- 
sents a branch of the Banjara caste of carriers, who have 
taken to agriculture and been promoted into the Kunbi 
community. The Lonhare take their name from Lonar 
Mehkar, the well-known bitter lake of the Buldana District, 
whose salt they may formerly have refined. The Ghatole 
are those who dwelt above the ghats or passes of the 
Saihadri range to the south of the Berar plain. The Baone 
are an important subcaste both in Berar and the Central 
Provinces, and take their name from the phrase Bawan Berar,^ 
a term applied to the province by the Mughals because it 
paid fifty-two lakhs of revenue, as against only eight lakhs 
realised from the adjoining Jhadi or hill country in the 
Central Provinces. In Chhindwara is found a small local 

^ Berar Census Re/iort {i^Zi), \)S.ra. ' Ibidem. 

180. 3 JBdwan = Mly -iwo. 



subcaste called Gadhao because they formerly kept donkeys, 
though they no longer do so ; they are looked down on by 
the others who will not even take water from their hands. 
In Nimar is a group of Gujarati Kunbis who are considered 
to have been originally Gujars/ Their local subdivisions 
are Leve and Karwa and many of them are also known as 
Dalia, because they made the ddl or pulse of Burhanpur, 
which had a great reputation under native rule. It is said 
that it was formerly despatched daily to Sindhia's kitchen. 
4- The It appears then that a Kunbi has in the past been 

synonymous with a cultivator, and that large groups from 
other castes have taken to agriculture, have been admitted 
into the community and usually obtained a rise in rank. 
In many villages Kunbis are the only ryots, while below 
them are the village menials and artisans, several of whom 
perform functions at weddings or on other occasions denot- 
ing their recognition of the Kunbi as their master or 
employer ; and beneath these again are the impure Mahars 
or labourers. Thus at a Kunbi betrothal the services of 
the barber and washerman must be requisitioned ; the 
barber washes the feet of the boy and girl and places 
vermilion on the foreheads of the guests. The washerman 
spreads a sheet on the ground on which the boy and girl 
sit. At the end of the ceremony the barber and washerman 
take the bride and bridegroom on their shoulders and dance 
to music in the marriage-shed ; for this they receive small 
presents. After a death has occurred at a Kunbi's house 
the impurity is not removed until the barber and washer- 
man have eaten in it. At a Kunbi's wedding the Gurao or 
village priest brings the leafy branches of five trees, the 
mango, j'dinun," wnar^ and two others and deposits them at 
Maroti's temple, whence they are removed by the parents of 
the bride. Before a wedding again a Kunbi bride must go 
to the potter's house and be seated on his wheel while it is 
turned round seven times for good luck. At seed-time and 
harvest all the village menials go to the cultivator's field 
and present him with a specimen of their wares or make 
obeisance to him, receiving in return a small present of 

' Bombay Gazetteer, Hindus of ^ Eug'em'a jai/ibolatia. 

Gujarat, p. 490, App. B, Gujar. •' Ficiis glomcrata. 


grain. This state of things seems to represent the primitive 
form of Hindu society from which the present widely 
ramified system of castes may have expanded, and even 
now the outHnes of the original structure may be discernible 
under all subsequent accretions. 

Each subcaste has a number of exogamous septs or clans s- Exo- 
which serve as a table of affinities in regulating marriage, septs." 
The vernacular term for these is kul. Some of the septs are 
named after natural objects or animals, others from titles or 
nicknames borne by the reputed founder of the group, or from 
some other caste to which he may have belonged, while 
others again are derived from the names of villages which 
maybe taken to have been the original home of the sept or clan. 
The following are some septs of the Tirole subcaste : Kole, 
jackal; V\^nkhede, a village; Kadu, bitter; Jagthap, famous; 
Kadam, atree; Meghe, a cloud; Lohekari, a worker in iron; 

Ughde,a child who has been exposed at birth ; Shinde, a palm- 
tree ; Hagre, one who suffers from diarrhoea ; Aglawe, an 
incendiary; Kalamkar, a writer; Wani (Bania), a caste; Sutar, 
a carpenter, and so on. A few of the groups of the Baone 
subcaste are : — Kantode, one with a torn ear ; Dokarmare, a 
killer of pigs ; Lute, a plunderer ; Titarmare, a pigeon-killer ; 
and of the Khedule : Patre, a leaf-plate ; Ghoremare, one who 
killed a horse ; Bagmare, a tiger-slayer ; Gadhe, a donkey ; 
Burade, one of the Burud or Basor caste ; Naktode, one with 
a broken nose, and so on. Each subcaste has a number of 
septs, a total of 66 being recorded for the Tiroles alone. 
The names of the septs confirm the hypothesis arrived at 
from a scrutiny of the subcastes that the Kunbis are largely 
recruited from the pre-Aryan or aboriginal tribes. Con- 
clusions as iio the origin of the caste can better be made in 
its home in Bombay, but it may be noted that in Canara, 
according to the accomplished author of A Naturalist on the 
Prowl} the Kunbi is quite a primitive forest-dweller, who 
only a few years back lived by scattering his seed on patches 
of land burnt clear of vegetation, collecting myrobalans and 
other fruits, and snaring and trapping animals exactly like 
the Gonds and Baigas of the Central Provinces. Similarly 
in Nasik it is stated that a large proportion of the Kunbi 

' See the article entitled 'An Anthropoid.' 


6. Restric- 
tions on 
of relatives. 

caste are probably derived from the primitive tribes.^ Yet 
in the cultivated plains which he has so largely occupied, he 
is reckoned the equal in rank of the Kurmi and other culti- 
vating castes of Hindustan, who in theory at any rate are 
of Aryan origin and of so high a grade of social purity that 
Brahmans will take water from them. The only reasonable 
explanation of this rise in status appears to be that the 
Kunbi has taken possession of the land and has obtained the 
rank which from time immemorial belongs to the hereditary 
cultivator as a member and citizen of the village community. 
It is interesting to note that the Wanjari Kunbis of Berar, 
who, being as already seen Banjaras, are of Rajput descent 
at any rate, now strenuously disclaim all connection with 
the Banjara caste and regard their reception into the Kunbi 
community as a gain in status. At the same time the refusal 
of the Maratha Brahmans to take water to drink from Kunbis 
may perhaps have been due to the recognition of their non- 
Aryan origin. Most of the Kunbis also eat fowls, which 
the cultivating castes of northern India would not usually do. 
A man is forbidden to marry within his own sept or kid, or 
in that of his mother or either of his grandmothers. He may 
marry his wife's younger sister but not her elder sister. 
Alliances between first and second cousins are also prohibited 
except that a sister's son may be married to a brother's 
daughter. Such marriages are also favoured by the Maratha 
Brahmans and other castes, and the suitability of the match 
is expressed in the saying Ato ghari bhdsi sun, or 'At a sister's 
house her brother's daughter is a daughter-in-law.' The 
sister claims it as a right and not unfrequently there are 
quarrels if the brother decides to give his daughter to some- 
body else, while the general feeling is so strongly in favour 
of these marriages that the caste committee sometimes 
imposes a fine on fathers who wish to break through the 
rule. The fact that in this single case the marriage of near 
relatives is not only permitted but considered almost as an 
obligation, while in all other instances it is strictly prohibited, 
probably points to the conclusion that the custom is a 
survival of the matriarchate, when a brother's property would 
pass to his sister's son. Under such a law of inheritance 

1 Bombay Gazetteer, Ndsik, p. 26. 


he would naturally desire that his heir should be united to 
his own daughter, and this union might gradually become 
customary and at length almost obligatory. The custom in 
this case may survive when the reasons which justified it 
have entirely vanished. And while formerly it was the 
brother who would have had reason to desire the match for 
his daughter, it is now the sister who insists on it for her son, 
the explanation being that among the Kunbis as with other 
agricultural castes, to whom a wife's labour is a valuable 
asset, girls are expensive and a considerable price has to be 
paid for a bride. 

Girls are usually married between the ages of five and 7- 
eleven and boys between ten and twenty. The Kunbis still and 
think it a mark of social distinction to have their daughters marriage. 
married as young as possible. The recognised bride-price is 
about twenty rupees, but much larger sums are often paid. 
The boy's father goes in search of a girl to be married to his 
son, and when the bride-price has been settled and the match 
arranged the ceremony of Mangni or betrothal takes place. 
In the first place the boy's father proceeds to his future 
daughter-in-law's house, where he washes her feet, smears her 
forehead with red powder and gives her a present of a rupee 
and some sweetmeats. All the party then eat together. 
This is followed by a visit of the girl's father to the boy's 
house where a similar ceremony is enacted and the boy is 
presented with a cocoanut, 2. pagri and cloth, and a silver or 
gold ring. Again the boy's relatives go to the girl's house 
and give her more valuable presents of jewellery and clothing. 
A Brahman is afterwards consulted to fix the date of the 
marriage, but the poorer Kunbis dispense with his services 
as he charges two or three rupees. Prior to the ceremony 
the bodies of the bride and bridegroom are well massaged 
with vegetable oil and turmeric in their respective houses, 
partly with a view to enhance their beauty and also perhaps 
to protect them during the trying period of the ceremony 
when maleficent spirits are particularly on the alert. The 
marriage-shed is made of eleven poles festooned with leaves, 
and inside it are placed two posts of the sdleJi {Bosivcllia 
serratd) or tniiar {Ficus gloinerata) tree, one longer than the 
other, to represent the bride and bridegroom. Two jars 


filled with water are set near the posts, and a small earthen 
platform called baola is made. The bridegroom wears a 
yellow or white dress, and has a triangular frame of bamboo 
covered with tinsel over his forehead, which is known as 
bdsmg and is a substitute for the maur or marriage-crown of 
the Hindustani castes. Over his shoulder he carries a pick- 
axe as the representative implement of husbandry with one 
or two wheaten cakes tied to it. This is placed on the top 
of the marriage -shed and at the end of the five days' 
ceremonies the members of the families eat the dried cakes 
with milk, no outsider being allowed to participate. The 
bardt or wedding procession sets out for the bride's village, 
the women of the bridegroom's family accompanying it except 
among the Tirole Kunbis, who forbid the practice in order to 
demonstrate their higher social position. It is received on 
the border of the girl's village by her father and his friends 
and relatives, and conducted to the janwdsa or temporary 
lodging prepared for it, with the exception of the bridegroom, 
who is left alone before the shrine of Maroti or Hanuman. 
The bridegroom's father goes to the marriage-shed where he 
washes the bride's feet and gives her another present of 
clothes, and her relatives then proceed to Maroti's temple 
where they worship and make offerings, and return bringing 
the bridegroom with them. As he arrives at the marriage 
pavilion he touches it with a stick, on which the bride's 
brother who is seated above the shed pours down some water 
and is given a present of money by the bridegroom. The 
bridegroom's feet are then washed by his father-in-law and 
he is given a yellow cloth which he wears. The couple are 
made to stand on two wooden planks opposite each other 
with a curtain between them, the bridegroom facing east and 
the bride west, holding some Akshata or rice covered with 
saffron in their hands. As the sun sets the officiating Brahman 
gets on to the roof of the house and repeats the marriage texts 
from there. At his signal the couple throw the rice over 
each other, the curtain between them is withdrawn, and they 
change their seats. The assembled party applaud and the 
marriage proper is over. The Brahman marks their foreheads 
with rice and turmeric and presses them together. He then 
seats them on the earthen platform or baola^ and ties their 


clothes together, this being known as the Brahma Ganthi or 
Brahman's knot. The wedding usually takes place on 
the day after the arrival of the marriage procession and 
another two days are consumed in feasting and worshipping 
the deities. When the bride and bridegroom return home 
after the wedding one of the party waves a pot of water 
round their heads and throws it away at a little distance on 
the ground, and after this some grain in the same manner. 
This is a provision of food and drink to any evil spirits who 
may be hovering round the couple, so that they may stop to 
consume it and refrain from entering the house. The ex- 
penses of the bride's family may vary from Rs. 60 to Rs. 100 
and those of the bridegroom's from Rs. i 60 to Rs. 600. A 
wedding carried out on a lavish scale by a well-to-do man is 
known as Lrd Biah or a red marriage, but when the parties 
are poor the expenses are curtailed and it is then called 
Safed Biah or a white marriage. In this case the bridegroom's 
mother does not accompany the wedding procession and the 
proceedings last only two days. The bride goes back with 
the wedding procession for a few days to her husband's house 
and then returns home. When she arrives at maturity her 
parents give a feast to the caste and send her to her husband's 
house, this occasion being known as Bolvan (the calling). 
The Karwa Kunbis of Nimar have a peculiar rule for the 
celebration of marriages. They have a gum or priest in 
Gujarat who sends them a notice once in every ten or twelve 
years, and in this year only marriages can be performed. It 
is called Singliast ki sal and is the year in which the planet 
Guru (Jupiter) comes into conjunction with the constellation 
Sinh (Leo). But the Karwas themselves think that there is 
a large temple in Gujarat with a locked door to which there 
is no key. But once in ten or twelve years the door unlocks 
of itself, and in that year their marriages are celebrated. A 
certain day is fixed and all the weddings are held on it 
together. On this occasion children from infants in arms to 
ten or twelve years are married, and if a match cannot be 
arranged for them they will have to wait another ten or 
twelve years. A girl child who is born on the day fixed for 
weddings may, however, be married twelve days afterwards, 
the twelfth night being called Mando Rat, and on this 


occasion any other weddings which may have been unavoid- 
ably postponed owing to a death or illness in the families 
may also be completed. The rule affords a loophole of 
escape for the victims of any such contretemps and also 
insures that every girl shall be married before she is fully 
twelve years old. Rather than not marry their daughter in 
the Singhast ki sal before she is twelve the parents will 
accept any bridegroom, even though he be very poor or younger 
than the bride. This is the same year in which the 
celebration of marriages is forbidden among the Hindus 
generally. The other Kunbis have the general Hindu rule 
that weddings are forbidden during the four months from 
the I ith Asarh Sudi (June) to the i ith Kartik Sudi (October). 
This is the period of the rains, when the crops are growing 
and the gods are said to go to sleep, and it is observed more 
or less as a time of abstinence and fasting. The Hindus 
should properly abstain from eating sugarcane, brinjals, 
onions, garlic and other vegetables for the whole four months. 
On the 1 2th of Kartik the marriage of Tulsi or the basil 
plant with the Saligram or ammonite representing Vishnu is 
performed and all these vegetables are offered to her and 
afterwards generally consumed. Two days afterwards, be- 
ginning from the 14th of Kartik, comes the Diwali festival. 
In Betiil the bridal couple are seated in the centre of a 
square made of four plough yokes, while a leaf of the pipal 
tree and a piece of turmeric are tied by a string round both 
their wrists. The untying of the string by the local Brahman 
constitutes the essential and binding portion of the marriage. 
Among the Lonhare subcaste a curious ceremony is per- 
formed after the wedding. A swing is made, and a round 
pestle, which is supposed to represent a child, is placed on 
it and swung to and fro. It is then taken off and placed 
in the lap of the bride, and the effect of performing this 
symbolical ceremony is supposed to be that she will soon 
become a mother. 
8. Poly- Polygamy is permitted but rarely practised, a second wife 

dirorce" being only taken if the first be childless or of bad character, 
or destitute of attractions. Divorce is allowed, but in some 
localities at any rate a divorced woman cannot marry again 
unless she is permitted to do so in writing by her first 


husband. If a girl be seduced before marriage a fine is 
imposed on both parties and they are readmitted to social 
intercourse, but are not married to each other. Curiously 
enough, in the Tirole and Wandhekar, the highest sub- 
castes, the keeping of a woman is not an offence entailing 
temporary exclusion from caste, whereas among the lower 
subcastes it is.^ 

The Kunbis permit the remarriage of widows, with the 9- widow- 
exception of the Deshmukh families of the Tirole subcaste "^^'"'''^s^- 
who have forbidden it. If a woman's husband dies she 
returns to her father's house and he arranges her second 
marriage, which is called choli-patal, or giving her new 
clothes. He takes a price for her which may vary from 
twenty-five to five hundred rupees according to the age 
and attractions of the woman. A widow may marry any 
one outside the family of her deceased husband, but she 
may not marry his younger brother. This union, which 
among the Hindustani castes is looked upon as most suitable 
if not obligatory, is strictly forbidden among the Maratha 
castes, the reason assigned being that a wife stands in the 
position of a mother to her husband's younger brothers. 
The contrast is curious. The ceremony of widow-marriage 
is largely governed by the idea of escaping or placating the 
wrath of the first husband's ghost, and also of its being 
something to be ashamed of and contrary to orthodox 
Hinduism. It always takes place in the dark fortnight of the 
month and always at night. Sometimes no women are present, 
and if any do attend they must be widows, as it would be 
the worst of omens for a married woman or unmarried girl 
to witness the ceremony. This, it is thought, would lead to 
her shortly becoming a widow herself. The bridegroom 
goes to the widow's house with his male friends and two 
wooden seats are set side by side. On one of these a betel- 
nut is placed which represents the deceased husband of the 
widow. The new bridegroom advances with a small wooden 
sword, touches the nut with its tip, and then kicks it off 
the seat with his right toe. The barber picks up the nut 
and burns it. This is supposed to lay the deceased husband's 
spirit and prevent his interference with the new union. 

1 This is the rule in the Nagpur District. 


The bridegroom then takes the seat from which the nut has 
been displaced and the woman sits on the other side to his 
left. He puts a necklace of beads round her neck and 
the couple leave the house in a stealthy fashion and go to 
the husband's village. It is considered unlucky to see 
them as they go away because the second husband is 
regarded in the light of a robber. Sometimes they stop 
by a stream on the way home, and, taking off the woman's 
clothes and bangles, bury them by the side of the stream. 
An exorcist may also be called in, who will confine the late 
husband's spirit in a horn by putting in some grains of 
wheat, and after sealing up the horn deposit it with the 
clothes. When a widower or widow marries a second time 
and is afterwards attacked by illness, it is ascribed to 
the illwill of their former partner's spirit. The metal 
image of the first husband or wife is then made and worn 
as an amulet on the arm or round the neck. A bachelor 
who wishes to marry a widow must first go through a 
mock ceremony with an dkra or swallow-wort plant, as 
the widow-marriage is not considered a real one, and it is 
inauspicious for any one to die without having been properly 
married once. A similar ceremony must be gone through 
when a man is married for the third time, as it is held that 
if he marries a woman for the third time he will quickly 
die. The dkra or swallow-wort {Calotropis gigajited) is a 
very common plant growing on waste land with mauve 
or purple flowers. When cut or broken a copious milky 
juice exudes from the stem, and in some places parents 
are said to poison children whom they do not desire to keep 
alive by rubbing this on their lips. 
10. Cus- During her monthly impurity a woman stays apart and 

birth ' may not cook for herself nor touch anybody nor sleep on 
a bed made of cotton thread. As soon as she is in this 
condition she will untie the cotton threads confining her 
hair and throw them away, letting her hair hang down. 
This is because they have become impure. But if there 
is no other woman in the house and she must continue 
to do the household work herself, she does not throw them 
away until the last day.^ Sin^ilarly she must not sleep on 

' From ii note by Mr. A. K. Smith, C.S. 


a cotton sheet or mattress during this time because she would 
defile it, but she may sleep on a woollen blanket as wool is a 
holy material and is not defiled. At the end of the period 
she proceeds to a stream and purifies herself by bathing 
and washing her head with earth. When a woman is with 
child for the first time her women friends come and give her 
new green clothes and bangles in the seventh month ; they 
then put her into a swing and sing songs. While she is 
pregnant- she is made to work in the house so as not to be 
inactive. After the birth of a child the mother remains 
impure for twelve days. A woman of the Mang or Mahar 
caste acts as midwife, and always breaks her bangles and 
puts on new ones after she has assisted at a birth. If 
delivery is prolonged the woman is given hot water and 
sugar or camphor wrapped in a betel-leaf, or they put a few 
grains of gram into her hand and then someone takes and 
feeds them to a mare, as it is thought that the woman's 
pregnancy has been prolonged by her having walked behind 
the tethering-ropes of a mare, which is twelve months in foal. 
Or she is given water to drink in which a Sulaimani onyx 
or a rupee of Akbar's time has been washed ; in the former 
case the idea is perhaps that a passage will be made 
for the child like the hole through the bead, while the 
virtue of the rupee probably consists in its being a silver 
coin and having the image or device of a powerful king 
like Akbar. Or it may be thought that as the coin has 
passed from hand to hand for so long, it will facilitate the 
passage of the child from the womb. A pregnant woman 
must not look on a dead body or her child may be still- 
born, and she must not see an eclipse or the child may be 
born maimed. Some believe that if a child is born during 
an eclipse it will suffer from lung-disease ; so they make a 
silver model of the moon while the eclipse lasts and hang 
it round the child's neck as a charm. Sometimes when 
delivery is delayed they take a folded flower and place it in a 
pot of water and believe that as its petals unfold so the womb 
will be opened and the child born ; or they seat the woman 
on a wooden bench and pour oil on her head, her forehead 
being afterwards rubbed with it in the belief that as the oil 
falls so the child will be born. If a child is a long time before 


learning to speak they give it leaves of the plpal tree to eat, 

because the leaves of this tree make a noise by rustling in the 

wind ; or a root which is very light in weight, because they 

think that the tongue is heavy and the quality of lightness 

will thus be communicated to it. Or the mother, when she 

has kneaded dough and washed her hands afterwards, will 

pour a drop or two of the water down the child's throat. 

And the water which made her hands clean and smooth 

will similarly clear the child's throat of the obstruction 

which prevented it from speaking. If a child's neck is 

weak and its head rolls about they make it look at a crow 

perching on the house and think this will make its neck 

strong like the crow's. If he cannot walk they make a little 

triangle on wheels with a pole called gJmrghiiri, and make him 

walk holding on to the pole. The first teeth of the child are 

thrown on to the roof of the house, because the rats, who 

have especially good and sharp teeth, live there, and it is 

hoped that the child's second teeth may grow like theirs. 

A few grains of rice are also thrown so that the teeth 

may be hard and pointed like the rice ; the same word, 

kani, being used for the end of a grain of rice and the 

tip of a tooth. Or the teeth are placed under a water-pot 

in the hope that the child's second teeth may grow as 

fast as the grass does under water-pots. If a child is lean 

some people take it to a place where asses have lain 

down and rolled in ashes ; they roll the child in the ashes 

similarly and believe that it will get fat like the asses are. 

Or they may lay the child in a pigsty with the same 

idea. People who want to injure a child get hold of its 

coat and lay it out in the sun to dry, in the belief that 

the child's body will dry up in a similar manner. In 

order to avert the evil eye they burn some turmeric and 

juari flour and hold the newly -born child in the smoke. 

It is also branded on the stomach with a burning piece of 

turmeric, perhaps to keep off cold. For the first day or 

two after birth a child is given cow's milk mixed with 

water or honey and a little castor oil, and after this it is 

suckled by the mother. But if she is unable to nourish 

it a wet-nurse is called in, who may be a woman of low 

caste or even a Muhammadan. The mother is given no 


regular food for the first two days, but only some sugar and 
spices. Until the child is six months old its head and 
body arc oiled every second or third day and the body is 
well hand -rubbed and bathed. The rubbing is meant to 
make the limbs supple and the oil to render the child less 
susceptible to cold. If a child when sitting soon after 
birth looks down through its legs they think it is looking 
for its companions whom it has left behind and that more 
children will be born. It is considered a bad sign if a 
child bites its upper teeth on its underlip ; this is thought to 
prognosticate illness and the child is prevented from doing 
so as far as possible. 

On the sixth day after birth they believe that Chhathi n. Sixth- 
or Satwai Devi, the Sixth-day Goddess, comes at midnight ^"-eifth- 
and writes on the child's forehead its fate in life, which day cere- 
writing, it is said, may be seen on a man's skull when the 
flesh has come off it after death. On this night the women 
of the family stay awake all night singing songs and eating 
sweetmeats. A picture of the goddess is drawn with 
turmeric and vermilion over the mother's bed. The door 
of the birth-room is left open, and at midnight she comes. 
Sometimes a Sunar is employed to make a small image of 
Chhathi Devi, for which he is paid Rs. 1-4, and it is hung 
round the child's neck. On this day the mother is given 
to eat all kinds of grain, and among flesh-eating castes the 
soup of fish and meat, because it is thought that every kind 
of food which the mother eats this day will be easily digested 
by the child throughout its life. On this day the mother is 
given a second bath, the first being on the day of the birth, 
and she must not bathe in between. Sometimes after child- 
birth a woman buys several bottles of liquor and has a bath 
in it ; the stimulating effect of the spirit is supposed to 
remedy the distension of the body caused by the birth. If 
the child is a boy it is named on the twelfth and if a girl on 
the thirteenth day. On the twelfth day the mother's bangles 
are thrown away and new ones put on. The Kunbis are 
very kind to their children, and never harsh or quick-tempered, 
but this may perhaps be partly due to their constitutional 
lethargy. They seldom refuse a child anything, but taking 
advantage of its innocence will by dissimulation make it 


forget what it wanted. The time arrives when this course 
of conduct is useless, and then the child learns to mistrust the 
word of its parents. Minute quantities of opium are generally 
administered to children as a narcotic. 
12. Devices If a woman is barren and has no children one of the 

°'".P™" remedies prescribed by the Sarodis or wandering soothsayers 
children, is that she should set fire to somebody's house, going alone 
and at night to perform the deed. So long as some small 
part of the house is burnt it does not matter if the fire be 
extinguished, but the woman should not give the alarm her- 
self It is supposed that the spirit of some insect which is 
burnt will enter her womb and be born as a child. Perhaps 
she sets fire to someone else's house so as to obtain the 
spirit of one of the family's dead children, which may be 
supposed to have entered the insects dwelling on the house. 
Some years ago at Bhandak in Chanda complaints were 
made of houses being set on fire. The police officer ^ sent 
to investigate found that other small fires continued to occur. 
He searched the roofs of the houses, and on two or three 
found little smouldering balls of rolled-up cloth. Knowing 
of the superstition he called all the childless married women 
of the place together and admonished them severely, and the 
fires stopped. On another occasion the same officer's wife 
was ill, and his little son, having fever, was sent daily to the 
dispensary for medicine in charge of a maid. One morning 
he noticed on one of the soles of the boy's feet a stain of the 
juice of the bhilawa'^ or- marking- nut tree, which raises 
blisters on the skin. On looking at the other foot he found 
six similar marks, and on inquiry he learned that these were 
made by a childless woman in the expectation that the boy 
would soon die and be born again as her child. The boy 
suffered no harm, but his mother, being in bad health, nearly 
died of shock on learning of the magic practised against 
her son. 

Another device is to make a pradakshmia or pilgrimage 
round a pipal tree, going naked at midnight after worship- 
ping Maroti or Hanuman, and holding a necklace of iulsi 
beads in the hand. The pTpal is of course a sacred tree, and 
is the abode of Brahma, the original creator of the world. 
1 Circle Inspector Ganesh Prasad, ^ Semicarpus anacardium . 


Brahma has no consort, and it is believed that while all other 
trees are both male and female the pipal is only male, and is 
capable of impregnating a woman and rendering her fertile. 
A variation of this belief is that pIpal trees are inhabited by 
the spirits of unmarried Brahman boys, and hence a woman 
sometimes takes a piece of new thread and winds it round 
the tree, perhaps with the idea of investing the spirit of the 
boy with the sacred thread. She will then walk round the 
tree as a symbol of the wedding ceremony of walking round 
the sacred post, and hopes that the boy, being thus brought 
to man's estate and married, will cause her to bear a son. 
But modest women do not go naked round the tree. The 
Amawas or New Moon day, if it falls on a Monday, is 
specially observed by married women. On this day they 
will walk 1 08 times round a pIpal tree, and then give 108 
mangoes or other fruits to a Brahman, choosing a different 
fruit every time. The number 108 means a hundred and a 
little more to show there is no stint, ' Full measure and flow- 
ing over,' like the customary present of Rs. 1-4 instead of a 
rupee. This is also no doubt a birth-charm, fruit being given 
so that the woman may become fruitful. Or a childless woman 
will pray to Hanuman or Mahabir. Every morning she will go 
to his shrine with an offering of fruit or flowers, and every 
evening will set a lamp burning there ; and morning and 
evening, prostrating herself, she makes her continuous prayer 
to the god : ' (9/z, Mahabir, Mahdrdj ! hamko ek batcha do, 
sirf ek batcha do! ^ Then, after many days, Mahabir, as 
might be anticipated, appears to her in a dream and promises 
her a child. It does not seem that they believe that Mahabir 
himself directly renders the woman fertile, because similar 
prayers are made to the River Nerbudda, a goddess. But 
perhaps he, being the god of strength, lends virile power to 
her husband. Another prescription is to go to the burying- 
ground, and, after worshipping it, to take some of the bone- 
ash of a burnt corpse and wear this wrapped up in an amulet 
on the body. Occasionally, if a woman can get no children 
she will go to the father of a large family and let him beget 
a child upon her, with or without the connivance of her 
husband. But only the more immodest women do this. Or 

' 'Oh, Lord Mahabir, give nie a child, only one child." 



she cuts a piece off the breast-cloth of a woman who has 
children, and, after burning incense on it, wears it as an 
amulet. For a stronger charm she will take a piece of such 
a woman's cloth and a lock of her hair and some earth which 
her feet have pressed and bury these in a pot before Devi's 
shrine, sometimes fashioning an image of the woman out of 
them. Then, as they rot away, the child-bearing power of the 
fertile woman will be transferred to her. If a woman's first 
children have died and she wishes to preserve a later one, she 
sometimes weighs the child against sugar or copper and dis- 
tributes the amount in charity. Or she gives the child a 
bad name, such as Dagharia (a stone), Kachria (sweepings), 
Ukandia (a dunghill). 
13. Love If a woman's husband is not in love with her, a prescrip- 

tion of a Mohani or love-charm given by the wise women is 
that she should kill an owl and serve some of its flesh to her 
husband as a charm. " It has not occurred," Mr. Kipling 
writes, " to the oriental jester to speak of a boiled owl in con- 
nection with intoxication, but when a husband is abjectly 
submissive to his wife her friends say that she has given him 
boiled owl's flesh to eat." ^ If a man is in love with some 
woman and wishes to kindle a similar sentiment in her the 
following method is given : On a Saturday night he should 
go to a graveyard and call out, ' I am giving a dinner to- 
morrow night, and I invite you all to attend.' Then on the 
Sunday night he takes cocoanuts, sweetmeats, liquor and 
flowers to the cemetery and sets them all out, and all the 
spirits or Shaitans come and partake. The host chooses a 
particularly big Shaitan and calls to him to come near and 
says to him, ' Will you go with me and do what I ask you.' 
If the spirit assents he follows the man home. Next night 
the man again offers cocoanuts and incense to the Shaitan, 
whom he can see by night but not by day, and tells him to 
go to the woman's house and call her. Then the spirit goes 
and troubles her heart, so that she falls in love with the man 
and has no rest till she goes to him. If the man afterwards 
gets tired of her he will again secretly worship and call up 
the Shaitan and order him to turn the woman's inclination 

' Beast and Man in Iiid/'a, j). 44. Hindus do say, 'Drunk as an owl' 
But, according to the same writer, tlic and also ' Stupid as an owl.' 


away. Another method is to fetch a skull from a graveyard 
and go to a banyan tree at midnight. There, divesting him- 
self of his clothes, the operator partially cooks some rice in 
the skull, and then throws it against the tree ; he gathers 
all the grains that stick to the trunk in one box and those 
that fall to the ground in another box, and the first rice 
given to the woman to eat will turn her inclination towards 
him, while the second will turn it away from him. This is 
a sympathetic charm, the rice which sticks to the tree having 
the property of attracting the woman. 

The Kunbis either bury or burn the dead. In Berar 14. Dis- 
sepulture is the more common method of disposal, perhaps in [j^g^^ead 
imitation of the Muhammadans. Here the village has usually 
a field set apart for the disposal of corpses, which is known 
as Smashan. Hindus fill up the earth practically level with 
the ground after burial and erect no monument, so that after 
a few years another corpse can be buried in the same place. 
When a Kunbi dies the body is washed in warm water and 
placed on a bier made of bamboos, with a network of san- 
hemp.^ Ordinary rope must not be used. The mourners 
then take it to the grave, scattering almonds, sandalwood, 
dates, betel-leaf and small coins as they go. These are 
picked up by the menial Mahars or labourers. Halfway to 
the grave the corpse is set down and the bearers change their 
positions, those behind going in front. Here a little wheat 
and pulse which have been tied in the cloth covering the 
corpse are left by the way. On the journey to the grave the 
body is covered with a new unwashed cloth. The grave is 
dug three or four feet deep, and the corpse is buried naked, 
lying on its back with the head to the south. After the 
burial one of the mourners is sent to get an earthen pot from 
the Kumhar ; this is filled with water at a river or stream, 
and a small piece is broken out of it with a stone ; one of 
the mourners then takes the pot and walks round the corpse 
with it, dropping a stream of water all the way. Having 
done this, he throws the pot behind him over his shoulder 
without looking round, and then all the mourners go home 
without looking behind them. The stone with which the 
hole has been made in the earthen pot is held to represent 

^ Crotalaria juncea. 


the spiiit of the deceased. It is placed under a tree or -on 
the bank of a stream, and for ten days the mourners come 
and offer it pindas or balls of rice, one ball being offered on 
the first day, two on the second, and so on, up to ten on the 
tenth. On this last day a little mound of earth is made, 
which is considered to represent Mahadeo. Four miniature 
flags are planted round, and three cakes of rice are laid on it ; 
and all the mourners sit round the mound until a crow 
comes and eats some of the cake. Then they say that the 
dead man's spirit has been freed from troubling about his 
household and mundane affairs and has departed to the other 
world. But if no real crow comes to eat the cake, they 
make a representation of one out of the sacred kusha grass, 
and touch the cake with it and consider that a crow has 
eaten it. After this the mourners go to a stream and put a 
little cow's urine on their bodies, and dip ten times in the 
water or throw it over them. The officiating Brahman 
sprinkles them with holy water in which he has dipped the 
toe of his right foot, and they present to the Brahman the 
vessels in which the funeral cakes have been cooked and the 
clothes which the chief mourner has worn for ten days. On 
coming home they also give him a stick, umbrella, shoes, a 
bed and anything else which they think the dead man will 
want in the next world. On the thirteenth day they feed 
the caste-fellows and the head of the caste ties a new pagri 
on the chief mourner's head backside foremost ; and the chief 
mourner breaking an areca-nut on the threshold places it in 
his mouth and spits it out of the door, signifying the final 
ejectment of the deceased's spirit from the house. Finally, 
the chief mourner goes to worship at Maroti's shrine, and 
the household resumes its ordinary life. The different rela- 
tives of the deceased man usually invite the bereaved family 
to their house for a day and give them a feast, and if they 
have many relations this may go on for a considerable time. 
The complete procedure as detailed above is observed only 
in the case of the head of the household, and for less im- 
portant members is considerably abbreviated. The position 
of chief mourner is occupied by a man's eldest son, or in the 
absence of sons by his younger brother, or failing him by 
the eldest son of an elder brother, or failing male relations 


by the widow. The chief mourner is considered to have a 
special claim to the property. He has the whole of his head 
and face shaved, and the hair is tied up in a corner of the 
grave-cloth. If the widow is chief mourner a small lock of 
her hair is cut off and tied up in the cloth. When the corpse 
is being carried out for burial the widow breaks her viangal- 
sutravi or marriage necklace, and wipes off the kunku or ver- 
milion from her forehead. This necklace consists of a string 
of black glass beads with a piece of gold, and is always placed 
on the bride's neck at the wedding. The widow does not 
break her glass bangles at all, but on the eleventh day 
changes them for new ones. 

The period of mourning for adults of the family is ten 15. Moum- 
days, and for children three, while in the case of distant '"^' 
relatives it is sufficient to take a bath as a mark of respect 
for them. The male mourners shave their heads, the walls 
of the house are whitewashed and the floor spread with cow- 
dung. The chief mourner avoids social intercourse and 
abstains from ordinary work and from all kinds of amuse- 
ments. He debars himself from such luxuries as betel-leaf 
and from visiting his wife. Oblations are offered to the 
dead on the third day of the light fortnight of Baisakh 
(June) and on the last day of Bhadrapad (September). The 
Kunbi is a firm believer in the action of ghosts and spirits, 
and never omits the attentions due to his ancestors. On 
the appointed day he diligently calls on the crows, who 
represent the spirits of ancestors, to come and eat the food 
which he places ready for them ; and if no crow turns up, he 
is disturbed at having incurred the displeasure of the dead. 
He changes the food and goes on calling until a crow comes, 
and then concludes that their previous failure to appear was 
due to the fact that his ancestors were not pleased with the 
kind of food he first offered. In future years, therefore, he 
changes it, and puts out that which was eaten, until a similar 
contretemps of the non-appearance of crows again occurs. 
The belief that the spirits of the dead pass into crows is no 
doubt connected with that of the crow's longevity. Many 
Hindus think that a crow lives a thousand years, and others 
that it never dies of disease, but only when killed by violence. 
Tennyson's ' many-wintered crow ' may indicate some similar 


idea in Europe. Similarly if the Gonds find a crow's nest 
they give the nestlings to young children to eat, and think 
that this will make them long-lived. If a crow perches in 
the house when a woman's husband or other relative is away, 
she says, ' Fly away, crow ; fly away and I will feed you ' ; 
and if the crow then flies away she thinks that the absent 
one will return. Here the idea is no doubt that if he had 
been killed his spirit might have come home in the shape of 
the crow perching on the house. If a married woman sees 
two crows breeding it is considered a very bad omen, the 
effect being that her husband will soon die. It is probably 
supposed that his spirit will pass into the young crow which 
is born as a result of the meeting which she has seen. 

Mr. A. K. Smith states that the omen applies to men 
also, and relates a story of a young advocate who saw two 
crows thus engaged on alighting from the train at some 
station. In order to avert the consequences he ran to the 
telegraph office and sent messages to all his relatives and 
friends announcing his own death, the idea being that this 
fictitious death would fulfil the omen, and the real death 
would thus become unnecessary. In this case the belief 
would be that the man's own spirit would pass into the 
young crow. 
i6. Reii- The principal deities of the caste are Maroti or Hanu- 

^'°"' man, Mahadeo or Siva, Devi, Satwai and Khandoba. Maroti 

is worshipped principally on Saturdays, so that he may 
counteract the evil influences exercised by the planet Saturn 
on that day. When a new village is founded Maroti must 
first be brought and placed in the village and worshipped, 
and after this houses are built. The name Maroti is derived 
from Marut, the Vedic god of the wind, and he is considered 
to be the son of Vayu, the wind, and Anjini. Khandoba is 
an incarnation of Siva as a warrior, and is the favourite 
deity of the Marathas. Devi is usually venerated in her 
incarnation of Marhai Mata, the goddess of smallpox and 
cholera — the most dreaded scourges of the Hindu villager. 
They offer goats and fowls to Marhai Devi, cutting the 
throat of the animal and letting its blood drop over the 
stone, which represents the goddess ; after this they cut off 
a leg and hang it to the tree above her shrine, and eat the 


remainder. Sometimes also they offer wooden images of 
human beings, which are buried before the shrine of the 
goddess and are obviously substitutes for a human sacrifice ; 
and the lower castes offer pigs. If a man dies of snake- 
bite they make a little silver image of a snake, and then kill 
a real snake, and make a platform outside the village and 
place the image on it, which is afterwards regularly wor- 
shipped as Nagoba Deo. They may perhaps think that the 
spirit of the snake which is killed passes into the silver 
image. Somebody afterwards steals the image, but this 
does not matter. Similarly if a man is killed by a tiger 
he is deified and worshipped as Baghoba Deo, though they 
cannot kill a tiger as a preliminary. The Kunbis make 
images of their ancestors in silver or brass, and keep them 
in a basket with their other household deities. But when 
these get too numerous they take them on a pilgrimage to 
some sacred river and deposit them in it. A man who has 
lost both parents will invite some man and woman on 
Akshaya Tritiya,^ and call them by the names of his parents, 
and give them a feast. Among the mythological stories 
known to the caste is one of some interest, explaining how 
the dark spots came on the face of the moon. They say 
that once all the gods were going to a dinner-party, each 
riding on his favourite animal or vdJian (conveyance). But 
the vdhan of Ganpati, the fat god with the head of an 
elephant, was a rat, and the rat naturally could not go 
as fast as the other animals, and as it was very far from 
being up to Ganpati's weight, it tripped and fell, and Ganpati 
came off. The moon was looking on, and laughed so much 
that Ganpati was enraged, and cursed it, saying, ' Thy face 
shall be black for laughing at me.' Accordingly the moon 
turned quite black ; but the other gods interfered, and said 
that the curse was too hard, so Ganpati agreed that only a 
part of the moon's face should be blackened in revenge for 
the insult. This happened on the fourth day of the bright 
fortnight of Bhadon (September), and on that day it is said 
that nobody should look at the moon, as if he does, his 
reputation will probably be lowered by some false charge or 

' The 3rd Baisakh (May) Siidi, the The name means, 'The day of immor- 
commencement of the agricultural year. tality.' 



17. The 



of Berar 

libel being promulgated against him. As already stated, the 
Kunbi firmly believes in the influence exercised by spirits, 
and a proverb has it, ' Brahmans die of indigestion, Sunars 
from bile, and Kunbis from ghosts ' ; because the Brahman 
is alvi^ays feasted as an act of charity and given the best 
food, so that he over-eats himself, while the Sunar gets bilious 
from sitting all day before a furnace. When somebody falls 
ill his family get a Brahman's cast-off sacred thread, and 
folding it to hold a little lamp, will wave this to and fro. If 
it moves in a straight line they say that the patient is 
possessed by a spirit, but if in a circle that his illness is due 
to natural causes. In the former case they promise an 
offering to the spirit to induce it to depart from the patient. 
The Brahmans, it is said, try to prevent the Kunbis from 
getting hold of their sacred threads, because they think that 
by waving the lamp in them, all the virtue which they have 
obtained by their repetitions of the Gayatri or sacred prayer 
is transferred to the sick Kunbi. They therefore tear up 
their cast-off threads or sew them into clothes. 

The principal festival of the Kunbis is the Pola, falling 
at about the middle of the rainy season, when they have a 
procession of plough-bullocks. An old bullock goes first, 
and on his horns is tied the vmk/iar, a wooden frame with 
pegs to which torches are affixed. They make a rope of 
mango-leaves stretched between two posts, and the viakJiar 
bullock is made to break this and stampede back to the 
village, followed by all the other cattle. It is said that the 
makhar bullock will die within three years. Behind him 
come the bullocks of the proprietors and then those of the 
tenants in the order, not so much of their wealth, but of their 
standing in the village and of the traditional position held 
by their families. A Kunbi feels it very bitterly if he is not 
given what he considers to be his proper rank in this pro- 
cession. It has often been remarked that the feudal feeling 
of reverence for hereditary rights and position is as strong 
among the Maratha people as anywhere in the world. 

In Wardha and Berar the customs of the Kunbis show 
in several respects the influence of Islam, due no doubt to 
the long period of Muhammadan dominance in the country. 
To this may perhaps be attributed the prevalence of burial 


of the dead instead of cremation, the more respectable 
method according to Hindu ideas. The Dhanoje Kunbis 
commonly revere Dawal Malik, a Muhammadan saint, whose 
tomb is at Uprai in Amraoti District. An iincs or fair is 
held here on Thursdays, the day commonly sacred to 
Muhammadan saints, and on this account the Kunbis will 
not be shaved on Thursdays. They also make vows of 
mendicancy at the Muharram festival, and go round begging 
for rice and pulse ; they give a little of what they obtain to 
Muhammadan beggars and eat the rest. At the Muharram 
they tie a red thread on their necks and dance round the 
aldwa, a small hole in which fire is kindled in front of the 
tdzias or tombs of Hussain. At the Muharram ^ they also 
carry horseshoes of silver or gilt tinsel on the top of a stick 
decorated with peacock's feathers. The horseshoe is a model 
of that of the horse of Hussain. The men who carry these 
horseshoes are supposed to be possessed by the spirit of the 
saint, and people make prayers to them for anything they 
want. If one of the horseshoes is dropped the finder will 
keep it in his house, and next year if he feels that the spirit 
moves him will carry it himself. In Wardha the Kunbis 
worship Khwaja Sheikh Farld of Girar, and occasionally 
Sheikh Farld appears to a Kunbi in a dream and places him 
under a vow. Then he and all his household make little 
imitation beggars' wallets of cloth and dye them with red 
ochre, and little hoes on the model of those which saises use 
to drag out horses' dung, this hoe being the badge of Sheikh 
Farld. Then they go round begging to all the houses 
in the village, saying, ' Dam^ Sahib, dam.' With the alms 
given them they make cakes of niallda, wheat, sugar and 
butter, and give them to the priest of the shrine. Sometimes 
Sheikh Farld tells the Kunbi in the dream that he must buy 
a goat of a certain Dhangar (shepherd), naming the price, 
while the Dhangar is similarly warned to sell it at the same 
price, and the goat is then purchased and sacrificed without 
any haggling. At the end of the sacrifice the priest releases 
the Kunbi from his vow, and he must then shave the whole of 
his head and distribute liquor to the caste-fellows in order to 

' Furnished by Inspector Ganesh Prasad. 
2 Dam : breath or life. 

and houses. 


be received back into the community. The water of the 
well at Sheikh Farld's shrine at Girar is considered to 
preserve the crops against insects, and for this purpose it is 
carried to considerable distances to be sprinkled on them. 
19. Villages An ordinary Kunbi village ^ contains between 70 and 

80 houses or some 400 souls. The village generally lies on 
a slight eminence near a nullah or stream, and is often 
nicely planted with tamarind or pipal trees. The houses are 
now generally tiled for fear of fire, and their red roofs may 
be seen from a distance forming a little cluster on high- 
lying ground, an elevated site being selected so as to keep 
the roads fairly dry, as the surface tracks in black-soil 
country become almost impassable sloughs of mud as soon 
as the rains have broken. The better houses stand round 
an old mud fort, a relic of the Pindari raids, when, on the 
first alarm of the approach of these marauding bands, the 
whole population hurried within its walls. The village 
proprietor's house is now often built inside the fort. It is 
an oblong building surrounded by a compound wall of 
unbaked bricks, and with a gateway through which a cart 
can drive. Adjoining the entrance on each side are rooms 
for the reception of guests, in which constables, chuprassies 
and others are lodged when they stay at night in the 
village. Kothas or sheds for keeping cattle and grain stand 
against the walls, and the dwelling-house is at the back. 
Substantial tenants have a house like the proprietor's, of well- 
laid mud, whitewashed and with tiled roof ; but the ordinary 
cultivator's house is one-roomed, with an angan or small 
yard in front and a little space for a garden behind, in 
which vegetables are grown during the rains. The walls 
are of bamboo matting plastered over with mud. The 
married couples sleep inside, the room being partitioned off 
if there are two or more in the family, and the older persons 
sleep in the verandahs. In the middle of the village by the 
biggest temple will be an old pipal tree, the trunk encircled 
by an earthen or stone platform, which answers to the 
village club. The respectable inhabitants will meet here 
while the lower classes go to the liquor-shop nearly every 

' Tliese paragraphs are largely based on a description of a Wardha village by 
Mr. A. K. Smith, C.S. 


night to smoke and chat. The blacksmith's and carpenter's 
shops are also places of common resort for the cultivators. 
Hither they wend in the morning and evening, often taking 
with them some implement which has to be mended, and 
stay to talk. The blacksmith in particular is said to be a 
great gossip, and will often waste much of his customer's 
time, plying him for news and retailing it, before he repairs 
and hands back the tool brought to him. The village is 
sure to contain two or three little temples of Maroti or 
Mahadeo. The stones which do duty for the images are 
daily oiled with butter or ghl, and a miscellaneous store of 
offerings will accumulate round the buildings. Outside the 
village will be a temple of Devi or Mata Mai (Smallpox 
Goddess) with a heap of little earthen horses and a string 
of hens' feet and feathers hung up on the wall. The little 
platforms which are the shrines of the other village gods 
will be found in the fields or near groves. In the evening 
the elders often meet at Maroti's temple and pay their 
respects to the deity, bowing or prostrating themselves 
before him. A lamp before the temple is fed by contribu- 
tions of oil from the women, and is kept burning usually up 
to midnight. Once a year in the month of Shrawan (July) 
the villagers subscribe and have a feast, the Kunbis eating 
first and the menial and labouring castes after them. In 
this month also all the village deities are worshipped by the 
Joshi or priest and the villagers. In summer the cultivators 
usually live in their fields, where they erect temporary sheds 
of bamboo matting roofed with juari stalks. In these most 
of the household furniture is stored, while at a little distance 
in another funnel-shaped erection of bamboo matting is kept 
the owner's grain. This system of camping out is mainly 
adopted for fear of fire in the village, when the cultivator's 
whole stock of grain and his household goods might be 
destroyed in a few minutes without possibility of saving 
them. The women stay in the village, and the men and 
boys go there for their midday and evening meals. 

Ordinary cultivators have earthen pots for cooking 20. Furni- 
purposes and brass ones for eating from, while the well-to- 
do have all their vessels of brass. The furniture consists of 
a few stools and cots. No Kunbi will lie on the ground, 


probably because a dying man is always laid on the ground 
to breathe his last ; and so every one has a cot consisting of 
a wooden frame with a bed made of hempen string or of 
the root-fibres of the palds tree {Butea frondosd). These 
cots are always too short for a man to lie on them at full 
length, and are in consequence supremely uncomfortable. 
The reason may perhaps be found in the belief that a man 
should always lie on a bed a little shorter than himself so 
that his feet project over the end. Because if the bed is 
longer than he is, it resembles a bier, and if he lies on 
a bier once he may soon die and lie on it a second time. 
For bathing they make a little enclosure in the compound 
with mats, and place two or three flat stones in it. Hot 
water is generally used and they rub the perspiration off 
their bodies with a flat stone called Jhavvar. Most Kunbis 
bathe daily. On days when they are shaved they plaster 
the head with soft black earth, and then wash it off and rub 
their bodies with a little linseed or sesamum oil, or, if they 
can afford it, with cocoanut oil. 
21. Food. The Kunbis eat three times a day, at about eight in the 

morning, at midday and after dark. The morning meal is 
commonly eaten in the field and the two others at home. 
At midday the cultivator comes home from work, bathes 
and takes his meal, having a rest for about two hours in all. 
After finishing work he again comes home and has his 
evening meal, and then, after a rest, at about ten o'clock he 
goes again to the fields, if the crops are on the ground, and 
sleeps on the mara or small elevated platform erected in the 
field to protect the grain from birds and wild animals ; 
occasionally waking and emitting long-drawn howls or 
pulling the strings which connect with clappers in various 
parts of the field. Thus for nearly eight months of the 
year the Kunbi sleeps in his fields, and only during the 
remaining period at home. Juari is the staple food of the 
caste, and is eaten both raw and cooked. The raw pods of 
juari were the provision carried with them on their saddles 
by the marauding Maratha horsemen, and the description of 
Sivaji getting his sustenance from gnawing at one of these 
as he rode along is said to have struck fear into the heart 
of the Nizam. It is a common custom among well-to-do 


tenants and proprietors to invite their friends to a picnic 
in the fields when the crop is ripe to eat hurda or the pods 
of juari roasted in hot ashes. For cooking purposes juari 
is ground in an ordinary handmill and then passed through 
a sieve, which separates the finer from the coarser particles. 
The finer flour is made into dough with hot water and baked 
into thick flat cJiapdtis or cakes, weighing more than half 
a pound each ; while the coarse flour is boiled in water 
like rice. The boiled pulse of arhar {Cajajius indicus) is 
commonly eaten with juari, and the chapdtis are either 
dipped into cold linseed oil or consumed dry. The same- 
ness of this diet is varied by a number of green vegetables, 
generally with very little savour to a European palate. 
These are usually boiled and then mixed into a salad with 
linseed or sesam'um oil and flavoured with salt or powdered 
chillies, these last being the Kunbi's indispensable condiment. 
He is also very fond of onions and garlic, which are either 
chopped and boiled, or eaten raw. Butter-milk when avail- 
able is mixed with the boiled juari after it is cooked, while 
wheat and rice, butter and sugar are delicacies reserved for 
festivals. As a rule only water is drunk, but the caste 
^ indulge in country liquor on festive occasions. Tobacco 
is commonly chewed after each meal or smoked in leaf 
cigarettes, or in chilains or clay pipe-bowls without a stem. 
Men also take snuff, and a few women chew tobacco and 
take snuff, though they do not smoke. It is noticeable that 
different subdivisions of the caste will commonly take food 
from each other in Berar, whereas in the Central Provinces 
they refuse to do so. The more liberal usage in Berar is 
possibly another case of Muhammadan influence. Small 
children eat with their father and brothers, but the women 
always wait on the men, and take their own food afterwards. 
Among the Dalia Kunbis of Nimar, however, women eat 
before men at caste feasts in opposition to the usual practice. 
It is stated in explanation that on one occasion when the 
men had finished their meal first and gone home, the women 
on returning were waylaid in the dark and robbed of their 
ornaments. And hence it was decided that they should 
always eat first and go home before nightfall. The Kunbi 
is fairly liberal in the matter of food. He will cat the flesh 

and oma 



of goats, sheep and deer, all kinds of fish and fowls, and 
will drink liquor. In Hoshangabad and Nimar the higher 
subcastes abstain from flesh and wine. The caste will take 
food cooked without water from Brahmans, Banias and 
Sunars, and that mixed with water only from Maratha 
Brahmans. All castes except Maratha Brahmans will take 
water from the hands of a Kunbi. 
22. Clothes The dress of the ordinary cultivator is most common- 

place and consists only of a loin-cloth, another cloth thrown 
over the shoulders and upper part of the body, which except 
for this is often bare, and a third rough cloth wound loosely 
round the head. All these, originally white, soon assume a 
very dingy hue. There is thus no colour in a man's every- 
day attire, but the gala dress for holidays consists of a red 
pagri or turban, a black, coloured or white coat, and a white 
loin-cloth with red silk borders if he can afford it. The 
Kunbi is seldom or never seen with his head bare ; this being 
considered a bad omen because every one bares his head 
when a death occurs. Women wear lugras, or a single long 
cloth of red, blue or black cotton, and under this the choli^ 
or small breast-cloth. They have one silk-bordered cloth for 
special occasions. A woman having a husband alive must 
not wear a white cloth with no colour in it, as this is the 
dress of widows. A white cloth with a coloured border may 
be worn. The men generally wear shoes which are open 
at the back of the heel, and clatter as they move along. 
Women do not, as a rule, wear shoes unless these are 
necessary for field work, or if they go out just after their 
confinement. But they have now begun to do so in towns. 
Women have the usual collection of ornaments on all parts 
of the person. The head ornaments should be of gold 
when this metal can be afforded. On the finger they have 
a miniature mirror set in a ring ; as a rule not more than 
one ring is worn, so that the hands may be free for work. 
For a similar reason glass bangles, being fragile, are worn 
only on the left wrist and metal ones on the right. But the 
Dhanoje Kunbis, as already stated, have cocoanut shell 
bangles on both wrists. They smear a mark of red powder 
on the forehead or have a spangle there. Girls are generally 
tattooed in childhood when the skin is tender, and the 


operation is consequently less painful. They usually have 
a small crescent and circle between the brows, small circles 
or dots on each temple and on the nose, cheeks and chin, 
and five small marks on the back of the hands to represent 
flies. Some of the Deshmukh families have now adopted 
the sacred thread ; they also put caste marks on the fore- 
head, and wear the shape of pagri or turban formerly dis- 
tinctive of Maratha Brahmans. 

The Kunbi has the stolidity, conservative instincts, 23. The 
dulness and patience of the typical agriculturist. Sir R. cultivator. 
Craddock describes him as follows : ^ " Of the purely agri- 
cultural classes the Kunbis claim first notice. They are 
divided into several sections or classes, and are of Maratha 
origin, the Jhari Kunbis (the Kunbis of the wild country) 
being the oldest settlers, and the Deshkar (the Kunbis from 
the Deccan) the most recent. The Kunbi is certainly a 
most plodding, patient mortal, with a cat-like affection for 
his land, and the proprietary and cultivating communities, 
of both of which Kunbis are the most numerous members, 
are unlikely to fail so long as he keeps these characteristics. 
Some of the more intelligent and affluent of the caste, who 
have risen to be among the most prosperous members of the 
community, are as shrewd men of business in their way as 
any section of the people, though lacking in education. I 
remember one of these, a member of the Local Board, who 
believed that the land revenue of the country was remitted 
to England annually to form part of the private purse of the 
Queen Empress. But of the general body of the Kunbi 
caste it is true to say that in the matter of enterprise, 
capacity to hold their own with the moneylender, determina- 
tion to improve their standard of comfort, or their style of 
agriculture, they lag far behind such cultivating classes as 
the Kirar, the Raghvi and the Lodhi. While, however, the 
Kunbi yields to these classes in some of the more showy 
attributes which lead to success in life, he is much their 
superior in endurance under adversity, he is more law- 
abiding, and he commands, both by reason of his character 
and his caste, greater social respect among the people at 
large. The wealthy Kunbi proprietor is occasionally rather 

^ Nagpur Settlement Report, para. 45. 



24. Social 
and moral 

spoilt by good fortune, or, if he continues a keen culti- 
vator, is apt . to be too fond of land-grabbing. But these 
are the exceptional cases, and there is generally no such 
pleasing spectacle as that afforded by a village in which the 
cultivators and the proprietors are all Kunbis living in 
harmony together." The feeling ^ of the Kunbi towards 
agricultural improvements has hitherto probably been some- 
thing the same as that of the Sussex farmer who said, * Our 
old land, it likes our old ploughs ' to the agent who was 
vainly trying to demonstrate to him the advantages of the 
modern two-horse iron plough over ^the great wooden local 
tool ; and the emblem ascribed to old Sussex — a pig 
couchant with the motto ' I wun't be druv ' — would suit the 
Kunbi equally well. But the Kunbi, too, though he could 
not express it, knows something of the pleasure of the simple 
outdoor life, the fresh smell of the soil after rain, the joy of 
the yearly miracle when the earth is again carpeted with 
green from the bursting into life of the seed which he has 
sown, and the pleasure of watching the harvest of his labours 
come to fruition. He, too, as has been seen, feels some- 
thing corresponding to " That inarticulate love of the English 
farmer for his land, his mute enjoyment of the furrow 
crumbling from the ploughshare or the elastic tread of his 
best pastures under his heel, his ever-fresh satisfaction at 
the sight of the bullocks stretching themselves as they rise 
from the soft grass." 

Some characteristics of the Maratha people are noticed 
by Sir R. Jenkins as follows : " " The most remarkable 
feature perhaps in the character of the Marathas of all 
descriptions is the little regard they pay to show or cere- 
mony in the common intercourse of life. A peasant or 
mechanic of the lowest order, appearing before his superiors, 
will sit down of his own accord, tell his story without cere- 
mony, and converse more like an equal than an inferior ; 
and if he has a petition he talks in a loud and boisterous 
tone and fearlessly sets forth his claims. Both the peasantry 
and the better classes are often coarse and indelicate in their 

1 The references to English farming 
in this paragraph are taken from an 
article in the Saturday Review of 22n(l 

August 1908. 

- Report on the Territories of the 
Rc'ija of Nfigpur. 

-r:^- J'-:- %.- 






language, and many of the proverbs, which they are fond of 
introducing into conversation, are extremely gross. In 
general the Marathas, and particularly the cultivators, are 
not possessed of much activity or energy of character, but 
they have quick perception of their own interest, though 
their ignorance of writing and accounts often renders them 
the dupes of the artful Brahmans." " The Kunbi," Mr. 
Forbes remarks,' " though frequently all submission and 
prostration when he makes his appearance in a revenue 
office, is sturdy and bold enough among his own people. 
Wq is fond of asserting his independence and the helpless- 
ness of others without his aid, on which subject he has 
several proverbs, as : ' Wherevqr it thunders there the Kunbi 
is a landholder,' and ' Tens of millions are dependent on the 
Kunbi, but the Kunbi depends on no man.' " This sense of 
his own importance, which has also been noticed among the 
Jats, may perhaps be ascribed to the Kunbi's ancient status 
as a free and full member of the village community. " The 
Kunbi and his bullocks are inseparable, and in speaking of 
the one it is difficult to dissociate the other. His pride in 
these animals is excusable, for they are most admirably 
suited to the circumstances in which nature has placed them, 
and possess a very wide-extended fame. But the Kunbi 
frequently exhibits his fondness for them in the somewhat 
peculiar form of unmeasured abuse. * May the Kathis - 
seize you ! ' is his objurgation if in the peninsula of Surat ; 
if in the Idar district or among the mountains it is there 
' May the tiger kill you ! ' and all over Gujarat, ' May your 
master die ! ' However, he means by this the animal's 
former owner, not himself ; and when more than usually 
cautious he will word his chiding thus — ' May the fellow 
that sold you to me perish.' " But now the Kathis raid no 
more and the tiger, though still taking good toll of cattle in 
the Central Provinces, is not the ever-present terror that 
once he was. But the bullock himself is no longer so sacro- 
sanct in the Kunbi's eyes, and cannot look forward with the 
•same certainty to an old age of idleness, thrisatened only by 
starvation in the hot weather or death by surfeit of the new 

' Rasmala, ii. 242. 

- A fiocbooting tribe who gave their name to Kalhiawar. 



moist grass in the rains ; and when therefore the Kunbi's 
patience is exhausted by these aggravating animals, his 
favourite threat at present is, ' I will sell you to the Kasais ' 
(butchers) ; and not so very infrequently he ends by doing 
so. It may be noted that with the development of the 
cotton industry the Kunbi of Wardha is becoming much 
sharper and more capable of protecting his own interests, 
while with the assistance and teaching which he now receives 
from the Agricultural Department, a rapid and decided 
improvement is taking place in his skill as a cultivator. 

Kunjra.^ — A caste of greengrocers, who sell country 
vegetables and fruit and are classed as Muhammadans. Mr, 
Crooke derives the name from the Sanskrit kimj\ ' a bower or 
arbour.' They numbered about 1600 persons in the Central 
Provinces in 191 1, principally in the Jubbulpore Division. 
The customs of the Kunjras appear to combine Hindu and 
Muhammadan rites in an indiscriminate medley. It is 
reported that marriage is barred only between real brothers 
and sisters and foster brothers and sisters, the latter rule 
being known as Dudh bachdna^ or ' Observing the tie of the 
milk.' At their betrothal presents are given to the parties, 
and after this a powder of henna leaves is sent to the boy, 
who rubs it on his fingers and returns it to the girl that she 
may do the same. As among the Hindus, the bodies of the 
bridal couple are anointed with oil and turmeric at their 
respective houses before the wedding. A marriage-shed is 
made and the bridegroom goes to the bride's house wearing 
a cotton quilt and riding on a bullock. The barber holds 
the umbrella over his head and must be given a present 
before he will fold it, but the wedding is performed by the 
Kazi according to the Nikah ceremony by the repetition of 
verses from the Koran. The wedding is held at four o'clock 
in the morning, and as a preliminary to it the bride is pre- 
sented with some money by the boy's father, which is 
known as the Meher or dowry. On its conclusion a cup 
of sherbet is given to the bridegroom, of which he drinks 

1 This article is partly based on Rao, Headmaster, Middle School, 
papers by Nanhe Khan, Sub-Inspector Seoni-Chhapara. 
of I'olicc, Khurai, Saugor, and Kesho 


half and hands the remainder to the bride. The gift of the 
Meher is considered to seal the marriage contract. When 
a widow is married the Kazi is also employed, and he simply 
recites the Kalama or Muhammadan profession of belief, 
and the ceremony is completed by the distribution of dates 
to the elders of the caste. Divorce is permitted and is 
known as taldq. The caste observe the Muhammadan 
festivals, and have some favourite saints of their own to 
whom they make offerings of gulgula, a kind of pudding, 
with sacrifices of goats and fowls. Participation in these 
rites is confined to members of the family. Children are 
named on the day of their birth, the Muhammadan Kazi 
or a Hindu Brahman being employed indifferently to 
select the name. If the parents lose one or more children, 
in order to preserve the lives of those subsequently born, 
they will allow the cJioti or scalp-lock to grow on their heads 
in the Hindu fashion, dedicating it to one of their Muham- 
madan saints. Others will put a hasli or silver circlet round 
the neck of the child and add a ring to this every year ; a 
strip of leather is sometimes also tied round the neck. When 
the child reaches the age of twelve years the scalp-lock is 
shaved, the leather band thrown into a river and the silver 
necklet sold. Offerings are made to the saints and a feast is 
given to the friends of the family. The dead are buried, 
camphor and attar of roses being applied to the corpse. On 
the Tija and Chdlisa, or third and fortieth days after a death, a 
feast is given to the caste-fellow.'^, but no mourning is observed, 
neither do the mourners bathe nor perform ceremonies of 
purification. On the Tija the Koran is also read and fried 
grain is distributed to children. For the death of a child the 
ordinary feasts need not be given, but prayers are offered 
for their souls with those of the other dead once a \-ear on 
the night of Shab-i-Barat or the fifteenth day of the month 
Shaban,^ which is observed as a vigil with prayer, feasts 

' Literally ' The Month of Separa- perform during the year ; and all the 
tion.' It is the eighth month of the children of men who are to be born and 
Muhammadan year and is said to be die in the year are recorded. Though 
so called because in this month the properly a fast, it is generally observed 
AraV)s broke up their encampments and with rejoicings and a display of fire- 
scattered in search of water. On the works. Hughes' Dictionary of Islam, 
night of Shab-i-Barat God registers all p. 570. 
the actions of men which they are to 

52 KURAMWAR part 

and illuminations and offerings to the ancestors. Kunjra 
men are usually clean-shaven with the exception of the 
beard, which is allowed to grow long below the chin. Their 
women are not tattooed. In the cities, Mr. Crooke remarks,^ 
their women have an equivocal reputation, as the better- 
looking girls who sit in the shops are said to use consider- 
able freedom of manners to attract customers. They are 
also very quarrelsome and abusive when bargaining for the 
sale of their wares or arguing with each other. This is so 
much the case that men who become very abusive are 
said to be behaving like Kunjras ; while in Dacca Sir H. 
Risley states '^ that the word Kunjra has become a term of 
abuse, so that the caste are ashamed to be known by it, and 
call themselves Mewa-farosh, Sabzi-farosh or Bepari. When 
two women are having an altercation, their husbands and 
other male relatives are forbidden to interfere on pain of 
social degradation. The women never sit on the ground, but 
on small wooden stools ox pirhis. The Kunjras belong chiefly 
to the north of the Province, and in the south their place is 
taken by the Marars and Malis who carry their own produce 
for sale to the markets. The Kunjras sell sugarcane, pota- 
toes, onions and all kinds of vegetables, and others deal in 
the dried fruits imported by Kabuli merchants. 

KuramwaP.^ — -The shepherd caste of southern India, 
who are identical with the Tamil Kurumba and the Telugu 
Kuruba. The caste is an important one in Madras, but in 
the Central Provinces is confined to the Chanda District 
where it numbered some 4000 persons in 1 9 1 i . The Kuram- 
wars are considered to be the modern representatives of the 
ancient Pallava tribe whose kings were powerful in southern 
India in the seventh century.^ 

The marriage rules of the Kuramwars are interesting. 
If a girl reaches adolescence while still single, she is finally 
expelled from the caste, her parents being also subjected 
to a penalty for readmission. Formerly it is said that such 
a girl was sacrificed to the river-goddess by being placed in 
a small hut on the river-bank till a flood came and swept 

* Trihe:^ and Castes of the N. IV. P., taken by Mr. Hira Lai and by Pyare 

art. Kunjra. Lai Misra, Ethnographic clerk. 

2 Tribes and Castes of Bengal, ibidem. * North Arcot Manual, vol. i. p. 

^ This article is compiled from notes 220. 


her away. Now she is taken to the river and kept in a hut, 
while offerings are made to the river-goddess, and she may 
then return and live in the village though she is out of caste. 
In Madras, as a preliminary to the marriage, the bridegroom's 
father observes certain marks or ' curls ' on the head or 
hair of the bride proposed. Some of these are believed to 
forecast prosperity and others misery to the family into which 
she enters. They are therefore very cautious in selecting 
only such girls as possess curls {snli) of good fortune. The 
writer of the North Arcot Manual^ after recording the above 
particulars, remarks : " This curious custom obtaining among 
this primitive tribe is observed by others only in the case of 
the purchase of cows, bulls and horses." In the Central 
Provinces, however, at least one parallel instance can be given 
from the northern Districts where any mark resembling the 
V on the head of a cobra is considered to be very inauspicious. 
And it is told that a girl who married into one well-known 
family bore it, and to this fact the remarkable succession of 
misfortunes which has attended the family is locally attributed. 
Among the Kuramwars marriages can be celebrated only on 
four days in the year, the fifth day of both fortnights of 
Phagun (February), the tenth day of the second fortnight of 
the same month and the third day of Baisakh (April). At 
the marriage the bride and bridegroom are seated together 
under the canopy, with the shuttle which is used for weaving 
blankets between them, and they throw coloured rice at each 
other. After this a miniature swing is put up and a doll is 
placed in it in imitation of a child and swung to and fro. 
The bride then takes the doll out and gives it to the bride- 
groom, saying : ' Here, take care of it, I am now going to 
cook food ' ; while after a time the boy returns the doll to 
the girl, saying, ' I must now weave the blanket and go to 
tend the flock.' The proceeding seems a symbolic enact- 
ment of the cares of married life and the joint tending of the 
baby, this sort of symbolism being particularly noticeable in 
the marriage ceremonies of the people of Madras. Divorce 
is not permitted even though the wife be guilty of adultery, 
and if she runs away to her father's house her husband 
cannot use force to bring her back if she refuses to 

' \'ol. i. p. 224. 

54 KURAMWAR part ii 

return to him. The Kuramwars worship the implements of 
their caUing at the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi, and if any 
family fails to do this it is put out of caste. They also 
revere annually Mallana Deva and Mallani Devi who guard 
their flocks respectively from attacks of tigers and epidemics 
of murrain. The shrines of these deities are generally built 
under a banyan tree and open to the east. The caste are 
shepherds and graziers and also make blankets. They are 
poor and ignorant, and the Abbe Dubois ^ says of them : 
" Being confined to the society of their woolly charge, they 
seem to have contracted the stupid nature of the animal, 
and from the rudeness of their nature they are as much 
beneath the other castes of Hindus as the sheep by their 
simplicity and imperfect instruction are beneath the other 
quadrupeds." Hence the proverbial comparison ' As stupid 
as a Kuramwar.' When out of doors the Kuramwar retains 
the most primitive method of eating and drinking ; he takes 
his food in a leaf and licks it up with his tongue, and sucks 
up water from a tank or river with his mouth. They justify 
this custom by saying that on one occasion their god had 
taken his food out of the house on a leaf-plate and was pro- 
ceeding to eat it with his hands when his sheep ran away 
and he had to go and fetch them back. In the meantime a 
crow came and pecked at the food and so spoilt it. It was 
therefore ordained that all the caste should eat their food 
straight off the leaf, in order to do which they would have to 
take it from the cooking-pot in small quantities and there 
would be no chance of leaving any for the crows to spoil. 
The story is interesting as showing how very completely 
the deity of the Kuramwars is imagined on the principle that 
god made man in his own image. Or, as a Frenchman has 
expressed the idea, "" Dieu a fait Vhomnie d son image, mais 
riionime le lui a bie?t rendu! The caste are dark in colour 
and may be distinguished by their caps made from pieces of 
blankets, and by their wearing a woollen cord round the 
waist over the loin-cloth. They speak a dialect of Canarese. 

' Hindu Planners, Customs and Cerc/nonies, 




Numbers and derivation of 





Functional character of the 






Exogamoiis groups. 



Marriage rules. Betrothal. 



The marriage-shed or pavil- 





The marriage cakes. 


Customs at the wedding. 



Walking 7-ound the sacred 




Other ceremonies. 



Polygamy, widow - marriage 


and divorce. 



Impurity of women. 



Pregnancy rites. 






Customs at birth. 



Treatment of mother and child. 



Ceremonies after birth. 



Suckling children. 



Beliefs about twins. 



Disposal of the dead. 



Funeral rites. 



Burning the dead. 




Return of the soul. 


Shaving., and presents to Brah- 

End of mourning. 
Anniversaries of t lie dead. 
Beliefs in the hereafter. 
Religion. Village gods. 
Sowing the Jawaras or gardens 

of A do /lis. 
Rites connected with the crops. 

Customs of cultivation. 
Agricultural superstitions. 

Superstitions about houses. 

Women's clothes. 

Caste feasts. 

Social customs. Tattooing. 
Caste penalties. 
The cultivating status. 
Appendix. List of exogamous 



-The representative cultivating caste of Hin- i. Num- 
bers and 

dustan or the country comprised roughly in the United derivation 
Provinces, Bihar and the Central Provinces north of the of name. 

* In this article some account of the 
houses, clothes and food of the Hindus 
generally of the northern Districts has 

been inserted, being mainly reproduced 
from the District Gazetteers. 



Nerbudda. In 191 i the Kurmis numbered about 300,000 
persons in the Central Provinces, of whom half belonged 
to the Chhattlsgarh Division and a third to the Jubbulpore 
Division ; the Districts in which they were most numerous 
being Saugor, Damoh, Jubbulpore, Hoshangabad, Raipur, 
Bilaspur and Drug. The name is considered to be 
derived from the Sanskrit krishi, cultivation, or from 
kunna, the tortoise incarnation of Vishnu, whether because 
it is the totem of the caste or because, as suggested by 
one writer, the Kurmi supports the population of India as 
the tortoise supports the earth. It is true that many Kurmis 
say they belong to the Kashyap gotra, Kashyap being the 
name of a Rishi, which seems to have been derived from 
kachJiap, the tortoise ; but many other castes also say they 
belong to the Kashyap gotra or worship the tortoise, and if 
this has any connection with the name of the caste it is 
probable that the caste-name suggested the go^ra-name and 
not the reverse. It is highly improbable that a large occu- 
pational caste should be named after an animal, and the 
metaphorical similitude can safely be rejected. The name 
seems therefore either to come from krisJii, cultivation, or 
from some other unknown source. 
2. Func- There seems little reason to doubt that the Kurmis, like 

tionaichar- ^j^^ Kunbis, are a functional caste. In Bihar they show 

acter of the ' _ ■' ^ 

caste. traces of Aryan blood, and are a fine-looking race. But in 

Chota Nagpur Sir H. Risley states : " Short, sturdy and of 
very dark complexion, the Kurmis closely resemble in feature 
the Dravidian tribes around them. It is difficult to distinguish 
a Kurmi from a Bhumij or Santal, and the Santals will take 
cooked food from them." ^ In the Central Provinces they 
are fairly dark in complexion and of moderate height, and 
no doubt of very mixed blood. Where the Kurmis and 
Kunbis meet the castes sometimes amalgamate, and there is 
little doubt that various groups of Kurmis settling in the 
Maratha country have become Kunbis, and Kunbis migrating 
to northern India have become Kurmis. Each caste has 
certain subdivisions whose names belong to the other. It 
has been seen in the article on Kunbi that this caste is of 
very diverse origin, having assimilated large bodies of persons 
1 'J'rihes and Castes 0/ Bengal, a.x\.. Kurmi. 


/from several other castes, and is probably to a considerable 

fextent recruited from the local non-Aryan tribes ; if then the 

iKurmis mix so readily with the Kunbis,the presumption is that 

rthey are of a similar mixed origin, as otherwise they should 

jconsider themselves superior. Mr. Crooke gives several names 

of subcastes showing the diverse constitution of the Kurmis. 

Thus three, Gaharwar, Jadon and Chandel are the names of 

Rajput clans ; the Kori subcaste must be a branch of the low 

weaver caste of that name ; and in the Central Provinces the 

names of such subcastes as the Agaria or iron-workers, the 

Lonhare or salt-refiners, and the Khaira or catechu-collectors 

indicate that these Kurmis are derived from low Hindu castes 

or the aboriginal tribes. 

The caste has a large number of subdivisions. The 3- Sub- 
Usrete belonged to Bundelkhand, where this name is found 
in several castes ; they are also known as Havelia, because 
they live in the rich level tract of the Jubbulpore Haveli, 
covered like a chessboard with large embanked wheat-fields. 
The name Haveli seems to have signified a palace or head- 
quarters of a ruler, and hence was applied to the tract 
surrounding it, which was usually of special fertility, and 
provided for the maintenance of the chief's establishment 
and household troops. Thus in Jubbulpore, Mandla and 
Betul we find the forts of the old Gond rulers dominating 
an expanse of rich plain -country. The Usrete Kurmis 
abstain from meat and liquor, and may be considered as one 
of the highest subcastes. Their name may be derived from 
a-sreshtha, or not the best, and its significance would be that 
formerly they were considered to be of mixed origin, like 
most castes in Bundelkhand. The group of Sreshtha or 
best-born Kurmis has now, however, died out if it ever 
existed, and the Usretes have succeeded in establishing 
themselves in its place. The Chandnahes of Jubbulpore 
or Chandnahus of Chhattlsgarh are another large subdivision. 
The name may be derived from the village Chandnoha in 
Bundelkhand, but the Chandnahus of Chhattlsgarh say that 
three or four centuries ago a Rajput general of the Raja 
of Ratanpur had been so successful in war that the king 
allowed him to appear in Durbar in his uniform with his 
forehead marked with sandalwood, as a special honour. 


When he died his son continued to do the same, and on 
the king's attention being drawn to it he forbade him. 
But the son did not obey, and hence the king ordered the 
sandalwood to be rubbed from his forehead in open Durbar. 
But when this was done the mark miraculously reappeared 
through the agency of the goddess Devi, whose favourite he 
was. Three times the king had the mark rubbed out and 
three times it came again. So he was allowed to wear it 
thereafter, and was called Chandan Singh from chandan, 
sandalwood ; and his descendants are the Chandnahu Kurmis. 
Another derivation is from Chandra, the moon. In Jubbul- 
pore these Chandnahes sometimes kill a pig under the palan- 
quin of a newly married bride. In Bilaspur they are 
prosperous and capable cultivators, but are generally reputed 
to be stingy, and therefore are not very popular. Here 
they are divided into the Ekbahinyas and Dobahinyas, or 
those who wear glass bangles on one or both arms respect- 
ively. The Chandraha Kurmis of Raipur are probably a 
branch of the Chandnahus. They sprinkle with water the 
wood with which they are about to cook their food in order 
to purify it, and will eat food only in the chauka or sanctified 
place in the house. At harvest when they must take meals 
in the fields, one of them prepares a patch of ground, clean- 
ing and watering it, and there cooks food for them all. 

The Singrore Kurmis derive their name from Singror, a 
place near Allahabad. Singror is said to have once been a 
very important town, and the Lodhis and other castes have 
subdivisions of this name. The Desha Kurmis are a group 
of the Mungeli tahsll of Bilaspur. Desh means one's native 
country, but in this case the name probably refers to Bundel- 
khand. Mr. Gordon states ^ that they do not rear poultry 
and avoid residing in villages in which their neighbours keep 
poultry. The Santore Kurmis are a group found in several 
Districts, who grow ja^-hemp,^ and are hence looked down 
upon by the remainder of the caste. In Raipur the Manwa 
Kurmis will also do this ; Mana is a word sometimes applied 
to a loom, and the Manwa Kurmis may be so called because 
they grow hemp and weave sacking from the fibres. The 

' Indian Folk Tales, p. 8. Lorha for a discussion of the Hindus' 

2 Crolalaria juncea. See article on prejudice against tiiis crop. 


Pdtaria are an inferior group in Bilaspur, who are similarly 
despised because they grow hemp and will take their food 
in the fields in patris or leaf-plates. The Gohbaiyan are 
considered to be an illegitimate group ; the name is said to 
signify ' holding the arm.' The Bahargaiyan, or ' those who 
live outside the town,' are another subcaste to which, children 
born out of wedlock are relegated. The Palkiha subcaste of 
jubbulpore are said to be so named because their ancestors 
were in the service of a certain Raja and spread his bedding 
for him ; hence they are somewhat looked down on by the 
others. The name may really be derived from palal, a kind 
of vegetable, and they may originally have been despised for 
gi-owing this vegetable, and thus placing themselves on a level 
with the gardening castes. The Masuria take their name 
from the niasnr or lentil, a common cold-weather crop in the 
northern Districts, which is, however, grown by all Kurmis 
and other cultivators ; and the Agaria or iron-workers, the 
Kharia or catechu-makers, and the Lonhare or salt-makers, 
have already been mentioned. There' are also numerous 
local or territorial subcastes, as the Chaurasia or those living 
in a Chaurasi ^ estate of eighty -four villages, the Pardeshi 
or foreigners, the Bundelkhandi or those who came from 
Bundelkhand, the Kanaujias from Oudh, the Gaur from 
northern India, and the Marathe and Telenge or Marathas 
and Telugus ; these are probably Kunbis who have been 
taken into the. caste. The Gabel are a small subcaste in 
Sakti State, who now prefer to drop the name Kurmi and 
call themselves simply Gabel. The reason apparently is 
that the other Kurmis about them sow j'«/z-hemp, and as 
they have ceased doing this they try to separate themselves 
and rank above the rest. But they call the bastard group 
of their community Rakhaut Kurmis, and other people speak 
of all of them as Gabel Kurmis, so that there is no doubt 
that they belong to the caste. It is said that formerly they 
were pack-carriers, but have now abandoned this calling in 
favour of cultivation. 

Each subcaste has a number of exogamous divisions and 4- Exo- 

1 • r n r^ 1 ganious 

these present a large variety of all t)'pes, borne groups have groups. 

' There are several Chaurasis, a grant of an estate of this special size being 
common under native rule. 


the names of Brahman saints as Sandil, Bharadvvaj, Kausil 
and Kashyap ; others are called after Rajput septs, as 
Chauhan, Rathor, Panwar and Solanki ; other names are of 
villages, as Khairagarhi from Khairagarh, Pandariha from 
Pandaria, Bhadaria, and Harkotia from Harkoti ; others are 
titular, as Sondeha, gold-bodied, Sonkharchi, spender of gold, 
Bimba Lohir, stick-carrier, Banhpagar, one wearing a thread 
on the arm, Bhandari, a store-keeper, Kumaria, a potter, and 
Shikaria, a hunter ; and a large number are totemistic, 
named after plants, animals or natural objects, as Sadaphal, 
a fruit ; Kathail from knth or catechu ; Dhorha, from dhor, 
cattle ; Kansia, the kdns grass ; Karaiya, a frying-pan ; 
Sarang, a peacock ; Samundha, the ocean ; Sindia, the date- 
palm tree ; Dudhua from dudh, milk, and so on. Some 
sections are subdivided ; thus the Tidha section, supposed to 
be named after a village, is divided into three subsections 
named Ghurepake, a mound of cowdung, Dwarparke, door- 
jamb, and Jangi, a warrior, which are themselves exogamous. 
Similarly the Chaudhri section, named after the title of the 
caste headman, is divided into four subsections, two, Majhga- 
wan and Bamuria, named after villages, and two, Purwa 
Thok and Pascham Thok, signifying the eastern and 
western groups. Presumably when sections get so large as 
to bar the marriage of persons not really related to each 
other at all, relief is obtained by subdividing them in 
this manner. A list of the sections of certain subcastes so 
far as they have been obtained is given at the end of the 
5. Mar- Marriage is prohibited between members of the same 

R'Ifroth" "' section and between first and second cousins on the mother's 
side. But the Chandnahe Kurmis permit the wedding of a 
brother's daughter to a sister's son. Most Kurmis forbid a 
man to marry his wife's sister during her lifetime. The 
Chhattlsgarh Kurmis have the practice of exchanging girls 
between two families. There is usually no objection to 
marriage on account of religious differences within the pale 
of Hinduism, but the difficulty of a union between a member 
of a Vaishnava sect who abstains from flesh and liquor, and 
a partner who does not, is felt and expressed in the following 
saying : 


^mA^I^^ ^t^ -"■■^^■i^^ 








Vaishnava purtisit avaishna7)a nciri 
Unt beil ki jot bichdri^ 

or ' A Vaishnava husband with a non-Vaishnava wife is 
like a camel yoked with a bullock.' Muliammadans and 
Christians are not retained in the caste. Girls arc usually 
wedded between nine and eleven, but well-to-do Kurmis, 
like other agriculturists, sometimes marry their daughters 
when only a few months old. The people say that when a 
Kurmi gets rich he will do three things : marry his daughters 
very young and with great display, build a fine house, and 
buy the best bullocks he can afford. The second and third 
methods of spending his money are very sensible, whatever 
may be thought of the first. No penalty is imposed for 
allowing a girl to exceed the age of puberty before marriage. 
Boys are married between nine and fifteen years, but the tend- 
ency is towards the postponement of the ceremony. The 
boy's father goes and asks for a bride and says to the girl's 
father, ' I have placed my son with you,' that is, given him 
in adoption ; if the match be acceptable the girl's father 
replies, ' Yes, I will give my daughter to collect cowdung 
for you ' ; to which the boy's father responds, ' I will hold 
her as the apple of my eye.' Then the girl's father sends 
the barber and the Brahman to the boy's house, carrying a 
rupee and a cocoanut. The boy's relatives return the visit 
and perform the ' God bharfm,' or ' Filling the lap of the 
girl,' They take some sweetmeats, a rupee and a cocoanut, 
and place them in the girl's lap, this being meant to induce 
fertility. The ceremony of betrothal succeeds, when the 
couple are seated together on a wooden plank and touch 
the feet of the guests and are blessed by them. The auspi- 
cious date of the wedding is fixed by the Brahman and 
intimation is given to the boy's family through the lagan or 
formal invitation, which is sent on a paper coloured yellow 
with powdered rice and turmeric. A bride-price is paid, 
which in the case of well-to-do families may amount to as 
much as Rs. lOO to Rs. 400. 

Before the wedding the women of the family go out 6. The 
•and fetch new earth for making the stoves on which the '"^'J'^g^- 

'^ sned or 

marriage feast will be cooked. When about to dig they pavilion, 
worship the earth by sprinkling water over it and offering 


flowers and rice. The marriage-shed is made of the wood 
of the sdleh tree,^ because this wood is considered to be alive. 
If a pole of sdleh is cut and planted in the ground it takes 
root and sprouts, though otherwise the wood is quite useless. 
The wood of the kekar tree has similar properties and may 
also be used. The shed is covered with leaves of the 
mango or jdniun ^ trees, because these trees are evergreen 
and hence typify perpetual life. The marriage-post in the 
centre of the shed is called Magrohan or Kham ; the women 
go and worship it at the carpenter's house ; two pice, a 
piece of turmeric and an areca-nut are buried below it in 
the earth and a new thread and a toran or string of 
mango-leaves is wound round it. Oil and turmeric are 
also rubbed on the marriage-post at the same time as on 
the bride and bridegroom. In Saugor the marriage-post 
is often a four-sided wooden frame or a pillar with four 
pieces of wood suspended from it. The larger the marriage- 
shed is made the greater honour accrues to the host, even 
though the guests may be insufficient to fill it. In towns it 
has often to be made in the street and is an obstacle to traffic. 
There may be eight or ten posts besides the centre one. 
7. The Another preliminary ceremony is the family sacrament 

marriage- ^^ ^y^^ Meher or marriagc-cakcs. Small balls of wheat-flour 
are kneaded and fried in an earthen pan with sesamum oil by 
the -eldest woman of the family. No metal vessel may be 
used to hold the water, flour or oil required for these cakes, 
probably because earthen vessels were employed before 
metal ones and are therefore considered more sacred. In 
measuring the ingredients a quarter of a measure is always 
taken in excess, such as a seer ^ and a quarter for a seer of 
wheat, to foreshadow the perpetual increase of the family. 
When made the cakes are offered to the Kul Deo or house- 
hold god. The god is worshipped and the bride and bride- 
groom then first partake of the cakes and after them all 
members of the family and relatives. Married daughters 
and daughters-in-law may eat of the cakes, but not widows, 
who are probably too impure to join in a sacred sacrament. 
Every person admitted to partake of the marriage-cakes 
is held to belong to the family, so that all other members of 

' Hoswellia scrrala. ^ Eugenia jamholana. ^ 2 lbs. 


it have to observe impurity for ten days after a birth or 

death has occurred in his house and shave their heads for a 

death. When the family is so large that this becomes 

irksome it is cut down by not inviting persons beyond seven 

degrees of relationship to the Meher sacrament. This 

exclusion has sometimes led to bitter quarrels and actions 

for defamation. It seems likely that the Meher may be 

a kind of substitute for the sacrificial meal, at which all the 

members of the clan ate the body of the totem or divine 

animal, and some similar significance perhaps once attached 

to the wedding-cake in England, pieces of which are sent to 

relatives unable to be present at the wedding. 

Before the wedding the women of each party go and 8. Customs 

anoint the village gods with oil and turmeric, worshippins' ^' ^^5 

fc> fc> _ ^ » ri b wedding. 

them, and then similarly anoint the bride and bridegroom at 
their respective houses for three days. The bridegroom's 
head is shaved except for his scalp-lock ; he wears a silver 
necklet on his neck, puts lamp-black on his eyes, and is 
dressed in new yellow and white clothes. Thus attired he 
goes round and worships all the village gods and visits 
the houses of his relatives and friends, who mark his fore- 
head with rice and turmeric and give him a silver piece. 
A list of the money thus received is made and similar 
presents are returned to the donors when they have 
weddings. The bridegroom goes to the wedding either in a 
litter or on a horse, and must not look behind him. After 
being received at the bride's village and conducted to his 
lodging, he proceeds to the bride's house and strikes a 
grass mat hung before the house seven times with a reed- 
stick. On entering the bride's house the bridegroom is 
taken to worship her family gods, the men of the party 
usually remaining outside. Then, as he goes through the 
room, one of the women who has tied a long thread round 
her toe gets behind him and measures his height with the 
thread without his seeing. She breaks off the thread at 
his height and doubling it once or twice sews it round the 
top of the bride's skirt, and they think that as long as the 
bride wears this thread she will be able to make her husband 
do as she likes. If the girls wish to have a joke they 
take one of the bridegroom's shoes which he has left 


outside the house, wrap it up in a piece of cloth, and place 
it on a shelf or in a cupboard, where the family god 
would be kept, with two lamps burning before it. Then 
they say to the bridegroom, ' Come and worship our household 
god' ; and if he goes and does reverence to it they unwrap 
the cloth and show him his own shoe and laugh at him. 
But if he has been to one or two weddings and knows 
the joke he just gives it a kick. The bride's younger 
brother steals the bridegroom's other shoe and hides it, 
and will not give it back without a present of a rupee 
or two. The bride and bridegroom are seated on wooden 
seats, and while the Brahman recites texts, they make the 
following promises. The bridegroom covenants to live with 
his Avife and her children, to support them and tell her all 
his concerns, consult her, make her a partner of his religious 
worship and almsgiving, and be with her on the night 
following the termination of her monthly impurity. The 
bride promises to remain faithful to her husband, to obey 
his wishes and orders, to perform her household duties as 
well as she can, and not to go anywhere without his 
permission. The last promise of the bridegroom has refer- 
ence to the general rule among Hindus that a man should 
always sleep with his wife on the night following the 
termination of her menses because at this time she is most 
likely to conceive and the prospect of a child being born 
must not be lost. The Shastras lay it down that a man 
should not visit his wife before going into battle, this 
being no doubt an instance of the common custom of 
abstinence from conjugal intercourse prior to some import- 
ant business or undertaking ; but it is stated that if on 
such an occasion she should have just completed a period 
of impurity and have bathed and should desire him to come 
in to her, he should do so, even with his armour on, because 
by refusing, in the event of his being killed in battle, the 
chance of a child being born would be finally lost. To 
Hindu ideas the neglect to produce life is a sin of the same 
character, though in a minor degree, as that of destroying 
life ; and it is to be feared that it will be some time before 
this ingrained superstition gives way to any considerations 
of prudential restraint. Some people say that for a man 


not to visit his wife at this time is as great a sin as 

The binding- ceremony of the marriage is the walking 9. walking 
seven times round the marriage-post in the direction of the """""^ ^'^^ 

111 sacred 

sun. Ihe post probably represents the sun and the walk post, 
of the bridal couple round it may be an imitation of the 
movement of the planets round the sun. The reverence 
paid to the marriage-post has already been noticed. During 
the procession the bride leads and the bridegroom puts his 
left hand on her left shoulder. The household pounding-slab 
is near the post and on it are placed seven little heaps of rice, 
turmeric, areca-nut, and a small winnowing-fan. Each time 
the bride passes the slab the bridegroom catches her right 
foot and with it makes her brush one of the little heaps off 
the slab. These seven heaps represent the seven Rishis or 
saints who are the seven large stars of the constellation of 
the Great Bear. 

After the wedding the bride and bridegroom resume jq other 
their seats and the parents of the bride wash their feet in a ^ere- 
brass tray, marking their foreheads with rice and turmeric. 
They put some silver in the tray, and other relations and 
friends do the same. The presents thus collected go to the 
bridegroom. The Chandnahu Kurmis then have a ceremony 
known as palkachdr. The bride's father provides a bed on 
which a mattress and quilt are laid and the bride and bride- 
groom are seated on it, while their brother and sister sprinkle 
parched rice round them. This is supposed to typify the 
consummation of the marriage, but the ceremony is purely 
formal as the bridal couple are children. The bridegroom 
is given two lamps and he has to mix their flames, probably 
to symbolise the mixing of the spirits of his wife and him- 
self. He requires a present of a rupee or two before he 
consents to do so. During the wedding the bride is bathed 
in the same water as the bridegroom, the joint use of the 
sacred element being perhaps another symbolic mark of 
their union. At the feasts the bride eats rice and milk with 
her husband from one dish, once at her own house and once 
after she goes to her husband's house. Subsequently she 
never cats with her husband but always after him. She 
also sits and eats at the wedding-feasts with her husband's 



II. Poly- 

relations. This is perhaps meant to mark her admission 
into her husband's clan. After the wedding the Brahmans 
on either side recite Sanskrit verses, praising their respective 
families and displaying their own learning. The competition 
often becomes bitter and would end in a quarrel, but that 
the elders of the party interfere and stop it. 

The expenses of an ordinary wedding on the bridegroom's 
side may be Rs. lOO in addition to the bride-price, and on 
the bride's Rs. 200. The bride goes home for a day or two 
with the bridegroom's party in Chhattlsgarh but not in the 
northern Districts, as women accompany the wedding pro- 
cession in the former but not in the latter locality. If she 
is too small to go, her shoes and marriage-crown are sent to 
represent her. When she attains maturity the chauk or 
gauna ceremony is performed, her husband going to fetch her 
with a few friends. At this time her parents give her 
clothes, food and ornaments in a basket called jhanpi or 
tipara specially prepared for the occasion. 

A girl who becomes pregnant by a man of the caste 
before marriage is wedded to him by the rite used for widows. 
If the man is an outsider she is expelled from the com- 
munity. Women are much valued for the sake of their 
labour in the fields, and the transgressions of a wife are 
viewed with a lenient eye. In Damoh it is said that a man 
readily condones his wife's adultery with another Kurmi, 
and if it becomes known and she is put out of caste, he will 
give the penalty feasts himself for her admission. If she is 
detected in a liaison with an outsider she is usually discarded, 
but the offence may be condoned should the man be a 
Brahman. And one instance is mentioned of a malguzar's 
wife who had gone wrong with a Gond, and was forgiven 
and taken back by her husband and the caste. But the 
leniency was misplaced as she subsequently eloped with an 
Ahlr. Polygamy is usual with those who can afford to pay 
for several wives, as a wife's labour is more efficient and she 
is a more profitable investment than a hired servant. An 
instance is on record of a blind Kurmi in Jubbulpore, who 
had nine wives. A man who is faithful to one wife, and 
does not visit her on fast-days, is called a Brahmachari or 
saint and it is thought that he will go to heaven. The 


remarriage of widows is permitted and is usual. The widow 
goes to a well on some night in the dark fortnight, and 
leaving her old clothes there puts on new ones which are 
given to her by the barber's wife. She then fills a pitcher 
with water and takes it to her new husband's house. He 
meets her on the threshold and lifts it from her head, and 
she goes into the house and puts bangles on her wrists. The 
following saying shows that the second marriage of widows 
is looked upon as quite natural and normal by the cultivating 
castes : 

"If the clouds are like partridge feathers it will rain, 
and if a widow puts lamp-black on her eyes she will marry 
again ; these things are certain." -^ 

A bachelor marrying a widow must first go through the 
ceremony with a ring which he thereafter wears on his finger, 
and if it is lost he must perform a funeral ceremony as if a 
wife had died. If a widower marries a girl she must wear 
round her neck an image of his first wife. A girl who is 
twice married by going round the sacred post is called 
Chandelia and is most unlucky. She is considered as bad 
or worse than a widow, and the people sometimes make her 
live outside the village and forbid her to show them her face. 
Divorce is open to either party, to a wife on account of the 
impotency or ill-treatment of her husband, and to a husband 
for the bad character, ill-health or quarrelsome disposition 
of his wife. A deed of divorce is executed and delivered 
before the caste committee. 

During her periodical impurity, which lasts for four or five 12. im- 
days, a woman should not sleep on a cot. She must not walk ^vonien°^ 
across the shadow of any man not her husband, because it is 
thought that if she does so her next child will be like that 
man. Formerly she did not see her husband's face for all these 
days, but this rule was too irksome and has been abandoned. 
She should eat the same kind of food for the whole period, 
and therefore must take nothing special on one day which 
she cannot get on other days. At this time she will let her 
hair hang loose, taking out all the cotton strings by which 
it is tied up." These strings, being cotton, have become 

^ Elliot, Hoshangabad Settlaneiit - The custom is pointed out by Mr. 

Report, p. 115. A. K. Smith, C.S. 


impure, and must be thrown away. But if there is no other 
woman to do the household work and she has to do it her- 
self, she will keep her hair tied up for convenience, and only 
throw away the strings on the last day when she bathes. 
All cotton things are rendered impure by her at this time, 
and any cloth or other article which she touches must be 
washed before it can be touched by anybody else ; but 
woollen cloth, being sacred, is not rendered impure, and she 
can sleep on a woollen blanket without its thereby becoming 
a defilement to other persons. When bathing at the end of 
the period a woman should see no other face but her husband's; 
but as her husband is usually not present, she wears a ring 
with a tiny mirror and looks at her own face in this as a 

If a woman desires to procure a miscarriage she eats a 
raw papaya fruit, and drinks a mixture of ginger, sugar, 
bamboo leaves and milk boiled together. She then has her 
abdomen well rubbed by a professional masseuse, who comes 
at a time when she can escape observation. After a pro- 
longed course of this treatment it is said that a miscarriage 
is obtained. It would seem that the rubbing is the only 
treatment which is directly effective. The papaya, which is 
a very digestible fruit, can hardly be of assistance, but may 
be eaten from some magical idea of its resemblance to a 
foetus. The mixture drunk is perhaps designed to be a 
tonic to the stomach against the painful effects of the 
13. Preg- As regards pregnancy Mr. Marten writes as follows : ^ " A 
rk«^ woman in pregnancy is in a state of taboo and is peculiarly 
liable to the influence of magic and in some respects danger- 
ous to others. She is exempt from the observance of fasts, 
is allowed any food she fancies, and is fed with sweets and 
all sorts of rich food, especially in the fifth month. She 
should not visit her neighbour's houses nor sleep in any open 
place. Her clothes are kept separate from others. She is 
subject to a large number of restrictions in her ordinary life 
with a view of avoiding everything that might prejudice or 
retard her delivery. She should eschew all red clothes or red 
things of any sort, such as suggest blood, till the third or 

1 Central Provinces Census Report (191 1), p. 153. 


fourth month, when conception is certain. She will be care- 
ful not to touch the dress of any woman who has had a mis- 
carriage. She will not cross running water, as it might 
cause premature delivery, nor go near a she-buffalo or a 
mare lest delivery be retarded, since a mare is twelve months 
in foal. If she does by chance approach these animals she 
must propitiate them by offerings of grain. Nor in some 
cases will she light a lamp, for fear the flame in some way 
may hurt the child. She should not finish any sowing, pre- 
viously begun, during pregnancy, nor should her husband 
thatch the house or repair his axe. An eclipse is particularly 
dangerous to the unborn child and she must not leave the 
house during its continuance, but must sit still with a stone 
pestle in her lap and anoint her womb with cowdung. Under 
no circumstances must she touch any cutting instrument as 
it might cause her child to be born mutilated. 

" During the fifth month of pregnancy the family gods 
are worshipped to avoid generally any difficulties in her 
labour. Towards the end of that month and sometimes in 
the seventh month she rubs her body with a preparation 
of gram-flour, castor-oil and turmeric, bathes herself, and is 
clothed with new garments and seated on a wooden stool in a 
space freshly cleaned and spread with cowdung. Her lap is 
then filled with sweets called pakwdn made of cocoanut. A 
similar ceremony called Boha Jewan is sometimes performed 
in the seventh or eighth month, when a new sari is given to 
her and grain is thrown into her lap. Another special rite 
is the Pansavaji ceremony, performed to remove all defects 
in the child, give it a male form, increase its size and beauty, 
give it wisdom and avert the influence of evil spirits." 

Pregnant women sometimes have a craving for eating 14. Earth- 
earth. They eat the earth which has been mixed with wheat ^-'^""S- 
on the threshing-floor, or the ashes of cowdung cakes which 
have been used for cooking. They consider it as a sort of 
medicine which will prevent them from vomiting. Children 
also sometimes get the taste for eating earth, licking it up 
from the floor, or taking pieces of lime-plaster from the 
walls. Possibly they may be attracted by the saltish taste, 
but the result is that they get ill and their stomachs are 
distended. The Panwar women of Balaghat eat red and 



15. Cus- 
toms at 

16. Treat- 
ment of 
and child. 

white clay in order that their children may be born with 
red and white complexions. 

During the period of labour the barber's wife watches 
over the case, but as delivery approaches hands it over to a 
recognised midwife, usually the Basorin or Chamarin, who 
remains in the lying-in room till about the tenth day after 
delivery. " If delivery is retarded," Mr. Marten continues,^ 
" pressure and massage are used, but coffee and other herbal 
decoctions are given, and various means, mostly depending 
on sympathetic magic, are employed to avert the adverse 
spirits and hasten and ease the labour. She may be given 
water to drink in which the feet of her husband ^ or her 
mother-in-law or a young unmarried girl have been dipped, 
or she is shown the sivastik or some other lucky sign, or the 
cJiakra-vyuha, a spiral figure showing the arrangement of the 
armies of the Pandavas and Kauravas which resembles the 
intestines with the exit at the lower end." 

The menstrual blood of the mother during child-birth is 
efficacious as a charm for fertility. The Nain or Basorin 
will sometimes try and dip her big toe into it and go to her 
house. There she will wash her toe and give the water to 
a barren woman, who by drinking it will transfer to herself 
the fertility of the woman whose blood it is. The women 
of the family are in the lying-in room and they watch her 
carefully, while some of the men stand about outside. If 
they see the midwife coming out they examine her, and if 
they find any blood exclaim, ' You have eaten of our salt 
and will you play us this trick ' ; and they force her back 
into the room where the blood is washed off. All the stained 
clothes are washed in the birth-room, and the water as well 
as that in which the mother and child are bathed is poured 
into a hole dug inside the room, so that none of it may be 
used as a charm. 

The great object of the treatment after birth is to pre- 
vent the mother and child from catching cold. They appear 
to confuse the symptoms of pneumonia and infantile lockjaw 
in a disease called sanpdt, to the prevention of which their 
efforts are directed. A sigii or stove is kept alight under 
the bed, and in this the seeds of ajwdiii or coriander are 

• C.P. Census Repri {i^ii), \x 153. ^ Or his big toe. 


burnt. The mother eats the seeds, and the child is waved 
over the stove in the smoke of the burning ajivdin. Raw 
asafoetida is put in the woman's ears wrapped in cotton- 
wool, and she eats a little half-cooked. A freshly-dried 
piece of cowdung is also picked up from the ground and 
half-burnt and put in water, and some of this water is 
given to her to drink, the process being repeated every day 
for a month. Other details of the treatment of the mother 
and child after birth are given in the articles on Mehtar and 
Kunbi. For the first five days after birth the child is given 
a little honey and calf's urine mixed. If the child coughs 
it is given bans-lochan, which is said to be some kind of 
silicate found in bamboos. The mother does not suckle the 
child for three days, and for that period she is not washed 
and nobody goes near her, at least in Mandla. On the 
third day after the birth of a girl, or the fourth after that of 
a boy, the mother is washed and the child is then suckled 
by her for the first time, at an auspicious moment pointed 
out by the astrologer. Generally speaking the whole treat- 
ment of child-birth is directed towards the avoidance of 
various imaginary magical dangers, while the real sanitary 
precautions and other assistance which should be given to 
the mother are not only totally neglected, but the treatment 
employed greatly aggravates the ordinary risks which a 
woman has to take, especially in the middle and higher 

When a boy is born the father's younger brother or one 17. cere- 
of his friends lets off a gun and beats a brass plate to pro- "1°"'^- 

'^ . =^f'^r birth. 

claim the event. The women often announce the birth of 
a boy by saying that it is a one-eyed girl. This is in case 
any enemy should hear the mention of the boy's birth, and 
the envy felt by him should injure the child. On the sixth 
day after the birth the Chhathi ceremony is performed and 
the mother is given ordinary food to eat, as described in the 
article on Kunbi. The twelfth day is known as Barhon or 
Chauk. On this day the father is shaved for the first time 
after the child's birth. The mother bathes and cugs the 
nails of her hands and feet ; if she is living by a river she 
throws them into it, otherwise on to the roof of the house. 
The father and mother sit in the chauk or space marked out 


for worship with cowdung and flour ; the woman is on the 
man's left side, a woman being known as Bamangi or the 
left limb, either because the left limb is weak or because 
woman is supposed to have been made from man's left side, 
as in Genesis. The household god is brought into the 
chauk and they worship it. The Bua or husband's sister 
brings presents to the mother known as b/iariz, for filling her 
lap : silver or gold bangles if she can afford them, a coat 
and cap for the boy ; dates, rice and a breast-cloth for the 
mother ; for the father a rupee and a cocoanut. These 
things are placed in the mother's lap as a charm to sustain 
her fertility. The father gives his sister back double the 
value of the presents if he can afford it. He gives her 
husband a head-cloth and shoulder-cloth ; he waves two or 
three pice round his wife's head and gives them to the 
barber's wife. The latter and the midwife take the clothes 
worn by the mother at child-birth, and the father gives them 
each a new cloth if he can afford it. The part of the navel- 
string which falls off the child's body is believed to have the 
power of rendering a barren woman fertile, and is also 
intimately connected with the child's destiny. It is there- 
fore carefully preserved and buried in some auspicious place, 
as by the bank of a river. 

In the sixth month the Pasni ceremony is performed, 
when" the child is given grain for the first time, consisting of 
rice and milk. Brahmans or religious mendicants are invited 
and fed. The child's hair and nails are cut for the first time 
on the Shivratri or Akti festival following the birth, and are 
wrapped up in a ball of dough and thrown into a sacred 
river. If a child is born during an eclipse they think that 
it will suffer from lung disease ; so a silver model of the 
moon is made immediately during the eclipse, and hung 
round the child's neck, and this is supposed to preserve it 
from harm. 
i8. Suck- A Hindu woman will normally suckle her child for two 

to three years after its birth, and even beyond this up to six 
years if it sleeps with her. But they think that the child 
becomes short of breath if suckled for so long, and advise 
the mother to wean it. And if she becomes pregnant again, 
when she has been three or four months in this condition, 



she will wean the child by putting nim leaves or some other 
bitter thing on her breasts. A Hindu should not visit his 
wife for the last six months of her pregnancy nor until the 
child has been fed with grain for the first time six months 
after its birth. During the former period such action is 
thought to be a sin, while during the latter it may have the 
effect of rendering the mother pregnant again too quickly, 
and hence may not allow her a sufficiently long period to 
suckle the first child. 

Twins, Mr. Marten states, are not usually considered to 19- Beliefs 
be inauspicious.^ "It is held that if they are of the same \^r^\^^_ 
sex they will survive, and if they are of a different sex one 
of them will die. Boy twins are called Rama and Lachh- 
man, a boy and a girl Mahadeo and Parvati, and two girls 
Ganga and Jamuni or Sita and Konda. They should always 
be kept separate so as to break the essential connection 
which exists between them and may cause any misfortune 
which happens to the one to extend to the other. Thus the 
mother always sleeps between them in bed and never carries 
both of them nor suckles both at the same time. Again, 
among some castes in Chhattlsgarh, when the twins are of 
different sex, they are considered to be pap (sinful) and are 
called Papi and Papin, an allusion to the horror of a brother 
and sister sharing the same bed (the mother's womb)." 
Hindus think that if two people comb their hair with the 
same comb they will lose their affection for each other. 
Hence the hair of twins is combed with the same comb to 
weaken the tie which exists between them, and may cause 
the illness or death of either to follow on that of the other. 

The dead are usually burnt with the head to the north. 20. Dis- 
Children whose ears have not been bored and adults who J^^^^J °\ 

the dead. 

die of smallpox or leprosy are buried, and members of poor 
families who cannot afford firewood. If a person has died 
by hanging or drowning or from the bite of a snake, his 
body is burnt without any rites, but in order that his soul 
may be saved, the Iiojii sacrifice is performed subsequently 
to the cremation. Those who live near the Nerbudda and 
Mahanadi sometimes throw the bodies of the dead into 
these rivers and think that this will make thep go to heaven. 

1 C.P. Ceiistts Pc'/or/ (igi I), p. 15S. 


The following account of a funeral ceremony among the 
middle and higher castes in Saugor is mainly furnished by 
Major W. D. Sutherland, I. M.S., with some additions from 
Mandla, and from material furnished by the Rev. E. M. 
Gordon : ^ " When a man is near his end, gifts to Brahmans 
are made by him, or by his son on his behalf These, if he 
is a rich man, consist of five cows with their calves, marked 
on the forehead and hoofs with turmeric, and with garlands 
of flowers round their necks. Ordinary people give the 
price of one calf, which is fictitiously taken at Rs. 3-4, 
Rs. 1-4, ten annas or five annas according to their means. 
By holding on to the tail of this calf the dead man will be 
able to swim across the dreadful river Vaitarni, the Hindu 
Styx. This calf is called Bachra Sankal or ' the chain-calf,' 
as it furnishes a chain across the river, and it may be given 
three times, once before the death and twice afterwards. 
When near his end the dying man is taken down from his 
cot and laid on a woollen blanket spread on the ground, 
perhaps with the idea that he should at death be in contact 
with the earth and not suspended in mid-air as a man on a 
cot is held to be. In his mouth are placed a piece of gold, 
some leaves of the tulsi or basil plant, or Ganges water, or 
rice cooked in Jagannath's temple. The dying man keeps 
on rejDeating ' Ram, Ram, Sitaram.' " 
21. Funeral As soon as death occurs the corpse is bathed, clothed 

and smeared with a mixture of powdered sandalwood, 
camphor and spices. A bier is constructed of planks, or if 
this cannot be afforded the man's cot is turned upside down 
and the body is carried out for burial on it in this fashion, 
with the legs of the cot pointing upwards. Straw is laid on 
the bier, and the corpse, covered with fine white cloth, is tied 
securely on to it, the hands being crossed on the breast, 
with the thumbs and great toes tied together. When a 
married woman dies she is covered with a red cloth which 
reaches only to the neck, and her face is left open to the 
view of everybody, whether she went abroad unveiled in her 
life or not. It is considered a highly auspicious thing for a 
woman to die in the lifetime of her husband and children, 
and the corpse is sometimes dressed like a bride and ' 

' In Indian Folk Tales. 



ornaments put on it. The corpse of a widow or girl is 
wrapped in a white cloth with the head covered. At the 
head of the funeral procession walks the son of the deceased, 
or other chief mourner, and in his hand he takes smouldering 
cowdung cakes in an earthen pot, from which the pyre will 
be kindled. This fire is brought from the hearth of the 
house by the barber, and he sometimes also carries it to 
the pyre. On the way the mourners change places so that 
each may assist in bearing the bier, and once they set the 
bier on the ground and leave two pice and some grain where 
it lay, before taking it up again. After the funeral each 
person who has helped to carry it takes up a clod of earth 
and with it touches successively the place on his shoulder 
where the bier rested, his waist and his knee, afterwards 
dropping the clod on the ground. It is believed that by so 
doing he removes from his shoulder the weight of the corpse, 
which would otherwise press on it for some time. 

At the cremation-ground the corpse is taken from the 22. Burn- 
bier and placed on the pyre. The cloth which covered it IJ^I^] ^ 
and that on which it lay are given to a sweeper, who is 
always present to receive this perquisite. To the corpse's 
mouth, eyes, ears, nostrils and throat is applied a mixture 
of barley-flour, butter, sesamum seeds and powdered sandal- 
wood. Logs of wood and cowdung cakes are then piled on 
the body and the pyre is fired* by the son, who first holds a 
burning stick to the mouth of the corpse as if to inform it 
that he is about to apply the fire. The pyre of a man is 
fired at the head and of a woman at the foot. Rich people 
burn the corpse with sandalwood, and others have a little 
of this, and incense and sweet-smelling gum. Nowadays 
if the rain comes on and the pyre will not burn they use 
kerosine oil. When the body is half-consumed the son 
takes up a piece of wood and with it strikes the skull seven 
times, to break it and give exit to the soul. This, however, 
is not always done. The son then takes up on his right 
shoulder an earthen pot full of water, at the bottom of which 
is a small hole. He walks round the pyre three times in 
the direction of the sun's course and stands facing to the 
south, and dashes the pot on the ground, crying out in his 
grief, * Oh, my father.' While this is going on mantras or 


sacred verses are recited by the officiating Brahman. When 
the corpse is partly consumed each member of the assembly 
throws the Pdnch lakariya (five pieces of wood or sprigs of 
basil) on to the pyre, making obeisance to the deceased and 
saying, ' Swarg ko jao,' or 'Ascend to heaven.' Or they may 
say, ' Go, become incarnate in some human being.' They 
stay by the corpse for i^ pahars or watches or some four 
hours, until either the skull is broken by the chief mourner 
or breaks of itself with a crack. Then they bathe and come 
home and after some hours again return to the corpse, to see 
that it is properly burnt. If the pyre should go out and a 
dog or other animal should get hold of the corpse when it 
is half-burnt, all the relatives are put out of caste, and have 
to give a feast to all the caste, costing for a rich family 
about Rs. 50 and for a poor one Rs. 10 to Rs. 15. Then 
they return home and chew nim leaves, which are bitter and 
purifying, and spit them out of their mouth, thus severing 
their connection with the corpse. When the mourners have 
left the deceased's house the women of the family bathe, 
the bangles of the widow are broken, the vermilion on the 
parting of her hair and the glass ornament {tikli) on her 
forehead are removed, and she is clad in white clothing of 
coarse texture to show that henceforth she is only a widow. 
On the third day the mourners go again and collect the 
ashes and throw them into the nearest river. The bones 
are placed in a silken bag or an earthen pot or a leaf basket, 
and taken to the Ganges or Nerbudda within ten days if 
possible, or otherwise after a longer interval, being buried 
meantime. Some milk, salt and calf's urine are sprinkled 
over the place where the corpse was burnt. These will cool 
the place, and the soul of the dead will similarly be cooled, 
and a cow will probably come and lick up the salt, and this 
will sanctify the place and also the soul. When the bones 
are to be taken to a sacred river they are tied up in a little 
piece of cloth and carried at the end of a stick by the chief 
mourner, who is usually accompanied by several caste-fellows. 
At night during the journey this stick is planted in the 
ground, so that the bones may not touch the earth. 
23. Burial. Gravcs are always dug from north to south. Some 

people say that heaven is to the north, being situated in the 


Himalayas, and others that in the Satyug or Golden Age the 
sun rose to the north. I'he digging of the grave only com- 
mences on the arrival of the funeral party, so there is of 
necessity a delay of several hours at the site, and all who attend 
a funeral are supposed to help in digging. It is considered 
to be meritorious to assist at a burial, and there is a saying 
that a man who has himself conducted a hundred funerals 
will become a Raja in his next birth. When the grave 
has been filled in and a mound raised to mark the spot, each 
person present makes five small balls of earth and places 
them in a heap at the head of the grave. This custom is 
also known as PdncJi lakariya, and must therefore be an 
imitation of the placing of the five sticks on the pyre ; its 
original meaning in the latter case may have been that the 
mourners should assist the family by bringing a contribution 
of wood to the pyre. As adopted in burial it seems to have 
no special significance, but somewhat resembles the European 
custom of the mourners throwing a little dust into the grave. 

On the third day the pindas or sacrificial cakes are 24. Return 
offered and this goes on till the tenth day. These cakes °^ '^'^ '°"'- 
are not eaten by the priest or Maha-Brahman, but are thrown 
into a river. On the evening of the third day the son goes, 
accompanied by a Brahman and a barber, and carrying a 
key to avert evil, to a pipal ^ tree, on whose branches he 
hangs two earthen pots : one containing water, which trickles 
out through a hole in the bottom, and the other a lamp. 
On each succeeding night the son replenishes the contents 
of these pots, which are intended to refresh the spirit of the 
deceased and to light it on its way to the lower world. In 
some localities on the evening of the third day the ashes of 
the cooking-place are sifted, and laid out on a tray at night 
on the spot where the deceased died, or near the cooking- 
place. In the morning the layer of ashes is inspected, and 
if what appears to be a hand- or footprint is seen, it is held 
that the spirit of the deceased has visited the house. Some 
people look for handprints, some for footprints, and some 
for both, and the Nais look for the print of a cow's hoof, 
which when seen is held to prove that the deceased in con- 
sideration of his singular merits has been reborn a cow. If 

1 Fiais R. 


a woman has died in child-birth, or after the birth of a child 
and before the performance of the sixth-day ceremony of 
purification, her hands are tied with a cotton thread when 
she is buried, in order that her spirit may be unable to rise 
and trouble the living. It is believed that the souls of such 
women become evil spirits or Chiirels. Thorns are also 
placed over her grave for the same purpose. 

25. Mourn- During the days of mourning the chief mourner sits 
'"^' apart and does no work. The others do their work but do 

not touch any one else, as they are impure. They leave their 
hair unkempt, do not worship the gods nor sleep on cots, 
and abjure betel, milk, butter, curds, meat, the wearing of 
shoes, new clothes and other luxuries. In these days the 
friends of the family come and comfort the mourners with 
conversation on the shortness and uncertainty of human life 
and kindred topics. During the period of mourning when 
the family go to bathe they march one behind the other in 
Indian file. And on the last day all the people of the village 
accompany them, the men first and after they have returned 
the women, all marching one behind the other. They also 
come back in this manner from the actual funeral, and the 
idea is perhaps to prevent the dead man's spirit from follow- 
ing them. He would probably feel impelled to adopt the 
same formation and fall in behind the last of the line, and 
then some means is devised, such as spreading thorns in the 
path, for leaving him behind. 

26. Shav- On the ninth, tenth or eleventh day the males of the family 
ing, and ]-^ave the front of the head from the crown, and the beard and 

presents to 

Brahmans. moustaches,shaved in token ofmourning. The Maha-Brahman 
who receives the gifts for the dead is shaved with them. 
This must be done for an elder relation, but a man need not 
be shaved on the death of his wife, sister or children. The 
day is the end of mourning and is called Gauri Ganesh, 
Gauri being Parvati or the wife of Siva, and Ganesh the god 
of good fortune. On the occasion the family give to the 
Maha-Brahman ' a new cot and bedding with a cloth, an 
umbrella to shield the spirit from the sun's rays, a copper 
vessel full of water to quench its thirst, a brass lamp to 
guide it on its journey, and if the family is well-to-do a 
1 He is also known as Katia or Kattaha Brahman and as Mahapatra. 


horse and a cow. All these things are meant to be for the 
use of the dead man in the other world. It is also the 
Brahman's business to eat a quantity of cooked food, which 
will form the dead man's food. It is of great spiritual 
importance to the dead man's soul that the Brahman should 
finish the dish set before him, and if he does not do so the 
soul will fare badly. He takes advantage of this by stop- 
ping in the middle of the meal, saying that he has eaten all 
he is capable of and cannot go on, so that the relations have 
to give him large presents to induce him to finish the food. 
These Maha-Brahmans are utterly despised and looked down 
on by all other Brahmans and by the community generally, 
and arc sometimes made to live outside the village. The 
regular priest, the Malai or Purohit, can accept no gifts from 
the time of the death to the end of the period pf mourning. 
Afterwards he also receives presents in money according to 
the means of his clients, which it is supposed will benefit the 
dead man's soul in the next world ; but no disgrace attaches 
to the acceptance of these. 

When the mourning is complete on the Gauri-Ganesh 27. End of 
day all the relatives take their food at the chief mourner's mourning. 
house, and afterwards the pancJidyat invest him with a new 
turban provided by a relative. On the next bazar day the 
members of the panchdyat take him to the bazar and tell him 
to take up his regular occupation and earn his livelihood. 
Thereafter all his relatives and friends invite him to take 
food at their houses, probably to mark his accession to the 
position of head of the family. 

Three months, six months and twelve months after the 28. Anni- 
death presents are made to a Brahman, consisting of Sidha, [he^dead.° 
or butter, wheat and rice for a day's food. The anniversaries 
of the dead are celebrated during Pitripaksh or the dark 
fortnight of Kunwar (September-October). If a man died on 
the third day of any fortnight in the year, his anniversary is 
celebrated on the third day of this fortnight and so on. On 
that day it is supposed that his spirit will visit his earthly 
house where his relatives reside. But the souls of women 
all return to their homes on the ninth day of the fortnight, 
and on the thirteenth day come the souls of all those who 
have met with a violent death, as by a fall, or have been 



29. Beliefs 
in the 

30. Reh- 

killed by wild animals or snakes. The spirits of such persons 
are supposed, on account of their untimely end, to entertain 
a special grudge against the living. 

As regards the belief in the hereafter Mr. Gordon writes : ^ 
" That they have the idea of hell as a place of punishment 
may be gathered from the belief that when salt is spilt the 
one who does this will in Fatal or the infernal region have 
to gather up each grain of salt with his eyelids. Salt is for 
this reason handed round with great care, and it is considered 
unlucky to receive it in the palm of the hand ; it is therefore 
invariably taken in a cloth or vessel. There is a belief that 
the spirit of the deceased hovers round familiar scenes and 
places, and on this account, whenever possible, a house in 
which any one has died is destroyed or deserted. After the 
spirit has wandered round restlessly for a certain time it is 
said that it will again become incarnate and take the form 
either of man or of one of the lower animals." In Mandla 
they think that the soul after death is arraigned and judged 
before Yama, and is then chained to a flaming pillar for a 
longer or shorter period according to its sins. The gifts 
made to Brahmans for the dead somewhat shorten the period. 
After that time it is born again with a good or bad body 
and human or animal according to its deserts. 

The caste worship the principal Hindu deities. Either 
Bhagwan or Parmeshwar is usually referred to as the supreme 
deity, as we speak of God. Bhagwan appears to be Vishnu 
or the Sun, and Parmeshwar is Siva or Mahadeo. There 
are few temples to Vishnu in villages, but none are required 
as the sun is daily visible. Sunday or Raviwar is the day 
sacred to him, and some people fast in his honour on Sundays, 
eating only one meal without salt. A man salutes the sun 
after he gets up by joining his hands and looking towards 
it, again when he has washed his face, and a third time when 
he has bathed, by throwing a little water in the sun's direc- 
tion. He must not spit in front of the sun nor perform the 
lower functions of the body in its sight. Others say that 
the sun and moon are the eyes of God, and the light of the 
sun is the effulgence of God, because by its light and heat 
all moving and immobile creatures sustain their life and all 
^ Indian Folk Tales, p. 54. 


corn and other products of the earth grow. In his incarna- 
tions of Rama and Krishna there are temples to Vishnu in 
large villages and towns. Khermata, the mother of the 
village, is the local form of Devi or the earth-goddess. She 
has a small hut and an image of Devi, either black or red. 
She is worshipped by a priest called Panda, who may be of 
any caste except the impure castes. The earth is worshipped 
in various ways. A man taking medicine for the first time 
in an illness sprinkles a few drops on the earth in its honour. 
Similarly for the first three or four times that a cow is milked 
after the birth of a calf the stream is allowed to fall on the 
ground. A man who is travelling offers a little food to the 
earth before eating himself Devi is sometimes considered 
to be one of seven sisters, but of the others only two are 
known, Marhai Devi, the goddess of cholera, and Sitala Devi, 
the goddess of smallpox. When an epidemic of cholera 
breaks out the Panda performs the following ceremony to 
avert it. He takes a kid and a small pig or chicken, and 
some cloth, cakes, glass bangles, vermilion, an earthen lamp, 
and some country liquor, which is sprinkled all along the 
way from where he starts to where he stops. He proceeds 
in this manner to the boundary of the village at a place 
where there are cross-roads, and leaves all the things there. 
Sometimes the animals are sacrificed and eaten. While the 
Panda is doing this every one collects the sweepings of his 
house in a winnowing -fan and throws them outside the 
village boundary, at the same time ringing a bell continu- 
ously. The Panda must perform his ceremony at night and, 
if possible, on the day of the new moon. He is accompanied 
by a iQ.\v other low-caste persons called Gunias. A Gunia 
is one who can be possessed by a spirit in the temple of 
Khermata. When possessed he shakes his head up and 
down violently and foams at the mouth, and sometimes 
strikes his head on the ground. Another favourite godling is 
Hardaul, who was the brother of Jujhar Singh, Rfija of Orchha, 
and was suspected by Jujhar Singh of loving the latter's 
wife, and poisoned in consequence by his orders. Hardaul 
has a platform and sometimes a hut with an image of a 
man on horseback carrying a spear in his hand. His shrine 
is outside the village, and two days before a marriage the 


women of the family visit his shrine and cook and eat their 
food there and invite him to the wedding. Clay horses are 
offered to him, and he is supposed to be able to keep off rain 
and storms during the ceremony. Hardaul is perhaps the 
deified Rajput horseman. Hanuman or Mahablr is repre- 
sented by an image of a monkey coloured with vermilion, 
with a club in his hand and a slain man beneath his feet. 
He is principally worshipped on Saturdays so that he may 
counteract the evil influences exercised by the planet Saturn 
on that day. His image is painted with oil mixed with ver- 
milion and has a wreath of flowers of the cotton tree ; and g'uo-al 
or incense made of resin, sandalwood and other ingredients is 
burnt before him. He is the deified ape, and is the god of 
strength and swiftness, owing to the exploits performed by 
him during Rama's invasion of Ceylon. Dulha Deo is 
another godling whose shrine is in every village. He was a 
young bridegroom who was carried off by a tiger on his way 
to his wedding, or, according to another account, was turned 
into a stone pillar by a flash of lightning. Before the start- 
ing of a wedding procession the members go to Dulha Deo 
and offer a pair of shoes and a miniature post and marriage- 
crown. On their return they offer a cocoanut. Dulha Deo 
has a stone and platform to the east of the village, or 
occasionally an image of a man on horseback like 
Hardaul. Mirohia is the god of the field boundary. There 
is no sign of him, but every tenant, when he begins sowing 
and cutting the crops, offers a little curds and rice and a 
cocoanut and lays them on the boundary of the field, saying 
the name of Mirohia Deo. It is believed among agriculturists 
that if this godling is neglected he will flatten the corn by 
a wind, or cause the cart to break on its way to the threshing- 
31. Sowing The sowing of the Jawaras, corresponding to the 
the gardens of Adonis, takes place during the first nine days 

Jawaras ^ , I -rr - ^ r^7 • /o 1 

or Gardens of the months of Kunwar and Chait (September and 
of Adonis. ]y[arch). The former is a nine days' fast preceding the 
Dasahra festival, and it is supposed that the goddess Devi 
was during this time employed in fighting the buffalo- 
demon (Bhainsasur), whom she slew on the tenth day. 
The latter is a nine days' fast at the new year, preceding 


the triumphant entry of Rama into Ajodhia on the tenth 
day on his return from Ceylon. The first period comes 
before the sowing of the spring crop of wheat and other 
grains, and the second is at the commencement of the harvest 
of the same crop. In some localities the Jawaras are also 
grown a third time in the rains, probably as a preparation 
for the juari sowings,^ as juari is planted in the baskets 
or ' gardens ' at this time. On the first day a small room 
is cleared and whitewashed, and is known as the dizvdla or 
temple. Some earth is brought from the fields and mixed 
with manure in a basket, and a male member of the family 
sows wheat in it, bathing before he does so. The basket is 
kept in the diwdla and the same man attends on it through- 
out the nine days, fasting all day and eating only milk and 
fruit at night, A similar nine days' fast was observed by 
the Eleusinians before the sacramental eating of corn and 
the worship of the Corn Goddess, which constituted the 
Eleusinian mysteries." During the period of nine days, called 
the Naoratra, the plants are watered, and long stalks spring 
up. On the eighth day the hom or fire offering is performed, 
and the Gunias or devotees are possessed by Devi. On the 
evening of the ninth day the women, putting on their best 
clothes, walk out of the houses with the pots of grain on 
their heads, singing songs in praise of Devi. The men 
accompany them beating drums and cymbals. The devotees 
pierce their cheeks with long iron needles and walk in the 
procession. High-caste women, who cannot go themselves, 
hire the barber's or waterman's wife to go for them. The 
pots are taken to a tank and thrown in, the stalks of grain 
being kept and distributed as a mark of amity. The wheat 
which is sown in Kunwar gives a forecast of the spring 
crops. A plant is pulled out, and the return of the crop 
will be the same number of times the seed as it has roots. 
The woman who gets to the tank first counts the number of 
plants in her pot, and this gives the price of wheat in rupees 
per mdiii} Sometimes marks of red rust appear on the 
plants, and this shows that the crop will suffer from rust. 
The ceremony performed in Chait is said to be a sort of 

^ Sorghiiiii vulgare, a large millet. History of Religion, p. 365. 

^ Dr. Jevons, Introduction to the "^ A measure of 400 lbs. 


harvest thanksgiving. On the ninth day of the autumn 
ceremony another celebration called ' Jhinjhia ' or ' Norta ' 
takes place in large villages. A number of young unmarried 
girls take earthen pots and, making holes in them and 
placing lamps inside, carry them on their heads through the 
village, singing and dancing. They receive presents from 
the villagers, with which they hold a feast. At this a small 
platform is erected and two earthen dolls, male and female, 
are placed on it ; rice and flowers are offered to them and 
their marriage is celebrated. 
32. Rites The following observances in connection with the crops 

connected ^j.g practised by the agricultural castes in Chhattlsgarh : 

with the ^ -' ° . ^ 

crops. The agricultural year begins on Akti or the 3rd day of 

^^^j;°^"^jj^°f Baisakh (April-May). On that day a cup made oi palds^ 
leaves and filled with rice is offered to Thakur Deo. In 
some villages the boys sow rice seeds before Thakur Deo's 
shrine with little toy ploughs. The cultivator then goes to 
his field, and covering his hand with wheat-flour and turmeric, 
stamps it five times on the plough. The malguzar takes 
five handfuls of the seed consecrated to Thakur Deo and 
sows it, and each of the cultivators also sows a little. After 
this regular cultivation may begin on any day, though 
Monday and Friday are considered auspicious days for the 
commencement of sowing. On the Hareli, or festival of 
the fresh verdure, which falls on the i 5th day of Shrawan 
(July-August), balls of flour mixed with salt are given to the 
cattle. The plough and all the implements of agriculture 
are taken to a tank and washed, and are then set up 
in the courtyard of the house and plastered with cowdung. 
The plough is set facing towards the sun, and butter and 
sugar are offered to it. An earthen pot is whitewashed 
and human figures are drawn on it with charcoal, one upside 
down. It is then hung over the entrance to the house and 
is believed to avert the evil eye. All the holes in the cattle- 
sheds and courtyards are filled and levelled with gravel. 
While the rice is growing, holidays are observed on five 
Sundays and no work is done. Before harvest Thakur Deo 
must be propitiated with an offering of a white goat or a 
black fowl. Any one who begins to cut his crop before this 

' Btitea froiidosa. 



offering has been made to Thakur Deo is fined the price of 
a goat by the village community. Before threshing his 
corn each cultivator offers a separate sacrifice to Thakur 
Deo of a goat, a fowl or a broken cocoanut. Each evening, 
on the conclusion of a day's threshing, a wisp of straw is 
rubbed on the forehead of each bullock, and a hair is then 
pulled from its tail, and the hairs and straw made into a 
bundle are tied to the pole of the threshing-floor. The 
cultivator prays, * O God of plenty ! enter here full and go 
out empty.' Before leaving the threshing-floor for the 
night some straw is burnt and three circles are drawn with 
the ashes, one round the heap of grain and the others 
round the pole. Outside the circles are drawn pictures of 
the sun, the moon, a lion and a monkey, or of a cart and a 
pair of bullocks. Next morning before sunrise the ashes 
are swept away by waving a winnowing-fan over them. 
This ceremony is called anj'afi chadJiana or placing lamp- 
black on the face of the threshing-floor to avert the evil 
eye, as women put it on their eyes. Before the grain is 
measured it must be stacked in the form of a trapezium with 
the shorter end to the south, and not in that of a square or 
oblong heap. The measurer stands facing the east, and 
having the shorter end of the heap on his left hand. On 
the larger side of the heap are laid the kalara or hook, 
a winnowing-fan, the datiri, a rope by which the bullocks 
are tied to the threshing-pole, one or three branches of 
the ber or wild plum tree, and the twisted bundle of straw 
and hair of the bullocks which had been tied to the 
pole. On the top of the heap are placed five balls of 
cowdung, and the ho)n or fire sacrifice is offered to it. The 
first kdtJia ^ of rice measured is also laid by the heap. The 
measurer never quite empties his measure while the work 
is going on, as it is feared that if he does this the god of 
abundance will leave the threshing-floor. While measuring 
he should always wear a turban. It is considered unlucky 
for any one who has ridden on an elephant to enter the 
threshing-floor, but a person who has ridden on a tiger 
brings luck. Consequently the Gonds and Baigas, if 
they capture a young tiger and tame it, will take it round 

' A measure containing 9 lb. 2 oz. of rice. 



33- Agri- 

the country, and the cultivators pay them a little to give 
their children a ride on it. To enter a threshing-floor 
with shod feet is also unlucky. Grain is not usually 
measured at noon but in the morning or evening. 

The cultivators think that each grain should bear a 
hundredfold, but they do not get this as Kuvera, the treasurer 
of the gods, or Bhainsasur, the buffalo demon who lives in 
the fields, takes it. Bhainsasur is worshipped when the rice 
is coming into ear, and if they think he is likely to be 
mischievous they give him a pig, but otherwise a smaller 
offering. When the standing corn in the fields is beaten 
down at night they think that Bhainsasur has been passing 
over it. He also steals the crop while it is being cut and 
is lying on the ground. Once Bhainsasur was absent while 
the particular field in the village from which he stole his 
supply of grain was cut and the crop removed, and after- 
wards he was heard crying that all his provision for the 
year had been lost. Sometimes the oldest man in the 
house cuts the first five bundles of the crop, and they are 
afterwards left in the field for the birds to eat. And at the 
end of harvest the last one or two sheaves are left standing 
in the field, and any one who likes can cut and carry them 
away. In some localities the last stalks are left standing 
in the field and are known as barJiona or the giver of increase. 
Then all the labourers rush together at this last patch of 
corn and tear it up by the roots ; everybody seizes as much 
as he can and keeps it, the master having no share in 
this patch. After the barhona has been torn up all the 
labourers fall on their faces to the ground and worship 
the field. In other places the barhona is left standing for 
the birds to eat. This custom arises from the belief 
demonstrated by Sir J. G. Frazer in The Golden Bough that 
the corn-spirit takes refuge in the last patch of grain, and 
that when it is cut he flies away or his life is extinguished. 
And the idea is supported by the fact that the rats and 
other vermin, who have been living in the field, seek shelter 
in the last patch of corn, and when this is cut have to 
dart out in front of the reapers. In some countries it is 
thought, as shown by Sir J. G. Frazer, that the corn-spirit 
takes refuge in the body of one of these animals. 



The house of a malguzar or good tenant stands in a 34- 
courtyard or angan 45 to 60 feet square and surrounded by 
a brick or mud wall. 

below :- 

The plan of a typical house is shown 



Cattle-shed (Sar). 










The ddldn or hall is for the reception of visitors. One 
of the living-rooms is set apart for storing grain. Those 
who keep their women secluded have a door at the back of 
the courtyard for their use. Cooking is done in one of the 
rooms, and there are no chimneys, the smoke escaping 
through the tiles. They bathe either in the cliauk or central 
courtyard, or go out and bathe in a tank or river or at a 
well. The family usually sleep inside the house in the 
winter and outside in the hot weather. A poor malguzar 
or tenant has only two rooms with a veranda in front, one 
of which is used by the family, while cattle are kept in the 
other ; while the small tenants and labourers have only one 
room in which both men and cattle reside. The walls are 
of bamboo matting plastered on both sides with mud, and 
the roof usually consists of single small tiles roughly baked in 
an improvised kiln. The house is surrounded by a mud wall 
or hedge, and sometimes has a garden behind in which 


tobacco, maize or vegetables are grown. The interior is 
dark, for light is admitted only by the low door, and the 
smoke-stained ceiling contributes to the gloom. The floor 
is of beaten earth well plastered with cowdung, the plastering 
being repeated weekly. 
35. Super- The following are some superstitious beliefs and customs 

stitions about houses. A house should face north or east and not 


houses. south or wcst, as the south is the region of Yama, the god 
of death, who lives in Ceylon, and the west the quarter of 
the setting sun. A Muhammadan's house, on the other 
hand, should face south or west because Mecca lies to the 
south-west. A house may have verandas front and back, 
or on the front and two sides, but not on all four sides. 
The front of a house should be lower than the back, this 
shape being known as gai-vinkh or cow-mouthed, and not 
higher than the back, which is singh-miikh or tiger-mouthed. 
The front and back doors should not be in a straight line, 
which would enable one to look right through the house. 
The angan or compound of a house should be a little longer 
than it is wide, no matter how little. Conversely the build- 
ing itself should be a little wider along the front than it is 
long from front to rear. The kitchen should always be on 
the right side if there is a veranda, or else behind. When 
an astrologer is about to found a house he calculates the 
direction in which Shesh Nag, the snake on whom the 
world reposes, is holding his head at that time, and plants 
the first brick or stone to the left of that direction, because 
snakes and elephants do not turn to the left but always to 
the right. Consequently the house will be more secure and 
less likely to be shaken down by Shesh Nag's movements, 
which cause the phenomenon known to us as an earthquake. 
Below the foundation-stone or brick are buried a pice, an 
areca-nut and a grain of rice, and it is lucky if the stone 
be laid by a man who has been faithful to his wife. There 
should be no echo in a house, as an echo is considered to 
be the voice of evil spirits. The main beam should be 
placed in position on a lucky day, and the carpenter breaks 
a cocoanut against it and receives a present. The width of 
the rooms along the front of a house should be five cubits 
each, and if there is a staircase it must have an uneven 


number of steps. The door should be low so that a man 
must bend his head on entering and thus show respect to 
the household god. The floor of the verandas should be 
lower than that of the room inside ; the Hindus say that 
the compound should not see the veranda nor the veranda 
the house. But this rule has of course also the advantage 
of keeping the house-floor dry. If the main beam of a 
house breaks it is a very bad omen, as also for a vulture 
or kite to perch on the roof; if this should happen seven 
days running the house will inevitably be left empty by 
sickness or other misfortune. A dog howling in front of 
the house is very unlucky, and if, as may occasionally 
happen, a dog should get on to the roof of the house and 
bark, the omen is of the worst kind. Neither the pipal nor 
banyan trees should be planted in the yard of a house, 
because the leavings of food might fall upon them, and this 
would be an insult to the deities who inhabit the sacred 
trees. Neither is it well to plant the 7il)n tree, because the 
ni7n is the tree of anchorites, and the frequent contemplation 
of it will take away from a man the desire of offspring and 
lead to the extinction of his family. Bananas should not 
be grown close to the house, because the sound of this fruit 
bursting the pod is said to be audible, and to hear it is most 
unlucky. It is a good thing to have a giilar^ tree in the 
yard, but at a little distance from the house so that the 
leavings of food may not fall upon it ; this is the tree of 
the saint Dattatreya, and will cause wealth to increase in 
the house. A plant of the sacred tulsi or basil is usually 
kept in the yard, and every morning the householder pours 
a vessel of water over it as he bathes, and in the evening 
places a lamp beside it. This holy plant sanctifies the air 
which passes over it to the house. 

No one should ever sit on the threshold of a house ; this 
is the seat of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and to sit on 
it is disrespectful to her. A house should never be swept 
at twilight, because it is then that Lakshmi makes her 
rounds, and she would curse it and pass by. At this time 
a lamp should be lighted, no one should be allowed to sleep, 
and even if a man is sick he should sit up on his bed. At 

^ FicHS glomcrata. 


this time the grinding-mill should not be turned nor grain be 
husked, but reverence should be paid to ancestors and to the 
household deities. No one must sit on the grinding-mill ; it 
is regarded as a mother because it gives out the flour by 
which the family is fed. No one must sit on cowdung cakes 
because they are the seat of Saturn, the Evil One, and their 
smell is called Samchar ke bds. No one must step on the 
chrdha or cooking-hearth nor jar it with his foot. At the 
midday meal, when food is freshly cooked, each man will take 
a little fire from the hearth and place it in front of him, and 
will throw a little of everything he eats on to the fire, and 
some ghi as an offering to Agni, the god of fire. And he 
will also walk round the hearth, taking water in his hand 
and then throwing it on the ground as an offering to 
Agni. A man should not sleep with his feet to the south, 
because a corpse is always laid in that direction. He should 
not sleep with his feet to the east, nor spit out water from 
his mouth in the direction of the east. 
36. Furni- Of furniture there is very little. Carefully arranged in 

their places are the brass cooking- pots, water -pots and 
plates, well polished with mud and water applied with 
plenty of elbow-grease by the careful housewife. Poor 
tenants frequently only have one or two brass plates and 
cups and an iron girdle, while all the rest of their vessels are 
of earthenware. Each house has several chulkas or small 
horseshoe erections of earth for cooking. Each person in 
the house has a sleeping-cot if the family is comfortably off, 
and a spare one is also kept. These must be put out and 
exposed to the sun at least once a week to clear them of 
fleas and bugs. It is said that the Jains cannot adopt this 
method of disinfecting their beds owing to the sacrifice of 
insect life thereby involved ; and that there are persons in 
Calcutta who make it their profession to go round and offer 
to lie on these cots for a time ; they lie on them for some 
hours, and the little denizens being surfeited with their 
blood subsequently allow the owner of the cot to have a 
quiet night. A cot should always be shorter than a man's 
length, so that his legs project over the end ; if it is so long 
as to contain his whole length it is like a bier, and it is feared 
that lying on a cot of this kind will cause him shortly to lie 



on a bier. Poor tenants do not usually have cots, but sleep 
on the ground, spreading kodon- straw on it for warmth. 
They have no bedding except a gudri or mattress made of 
old rags and clothes sewn together. In winter they put it 
over them, and sleep on it in summer. They will have a 
wooden log to rest their heads on when sleeping, and this 
will also serve as a seat for a guest. Malguzars have a 
razai or quilt, and a doria or thick cloth like those used for 
covering carts. Clothes and other things are kept in jhdvipis 
or round bamboo baskets. For sitting on there are machnis 
or four-legged stools about a foot high with seats of grass 
rope or pir/iis, little wooden stools only an inch or two from 
the ground. For lighting, wicks are set afloat in little 
earthen saucers filled with oil. 

Landowners usually have a long coat known as angarkJia 37- 
reaching to the knees, with flaps folding over the breasts and 
tied with strings. The bandi is a short coat like this but 
coming only to the hips, and is more popular with cultivators. 
In the cold weather it is frequently stuffed with cotton and 
dyed dark green or dark blue so as not to show the dirt. 
For visits of ceremony a pair oi paijdmas are kept, but other- 
wise the dhoti or loin-cloth is commonly worn. Wearing the 
dhoti pulled half-way up to the thighs is called ' cultivator's 
fashion.' A shirt may be worn under the coat ; but cultivators 
usually have only one garment, nowadays often a sleeveless 
coat with buttons in front. The proper head-dress is the 
pagri, a piece of coloured cloth perhaps 30 feet long and a 
foot wide, twisted tightly into folds, which is lifted on and 
off the head and is only rarely undone. Twisting the pagri 
is an art, and a man is usually hired to do it and paid four 
annas. The pagris have different shapes in different parts 
of the country, and a Hindu can tell by the shape of a man's 
pagri where he comes from. But nowadays cultivators 
usually wear a dupatta or short piece of cloth tied loosely 
round the head. The tenant arranges his head-cloth with a 
large projection on one side, and in it he carries his chilain 
or pipe-bowl, and also small quantities of vegetables, salt or 
condiments purchased at the bazar. In case of necessity he 
can transform it into a loin-cloth, or tie up a bundle of grass 
with it, or tie his lota to it to draw water from a well. 


' What can the washerman do in a village where the people 
live naked ? ' is a Chhattisgarhi proverb which aptly indicates 
that scantiness is the most prominent feature of the local 
apparel. Here a cloth round the loins, and this usually of 
meagre dimensions, constituted, until recently, the full dress 
of a cultivator. Those who have progressed a stage farther 
throw a cloth loosely over one shoulder, covering the chest, 
and assume an apology for a turban by wrapping another 
small rag carelessly round the head, leaving the crown 
generally bare, as if this part of the person required special 
sunning and ventilation, Hindus will not be seen out-of- 
doors with the head bare, though the Gonds and other tribes 
only begin to wear head-cloths when they are adopting 
Hinduism. The Gondi fashion was formerly prevalent in 
Chhattlsgarh. Some sanctity attaches to the turban, 
probably because it is the covering of the head. To knock 
off a man's turban is a great insult, and if it drops off or he 
lets it fall, it is a very bad omen. 
38. Women in the northern Districts wear a skirt made of 

Women's coarsc cloth, usually red or blue, and a shoulder-cloth of the 

clothes. . 

same material. Hand-woven cloth is still commonly used 
in the interior. The skirt is sometimes drawn up through 
the legs behind so as to give it a divided appearance ; this 
is called kachJiota. On the upper part of the body they 
wear an angia or breast-cloth, that is a short, tight, sleeveless 
jacket reaching only to below the breasts. The ajigia is 
tied behind, while the Maratha cJioli, which is the same thing, 
is buttoned or tied in front. High-caste women draw their 
shoulder-cloth right over the head so that the face cannot 
be seen. When a woman goes before a person of position 
she covers her head, as it is considered immodest to leave 
it bare. Women of respectable families wear a sheet of fine 
white, yellow, or red cloth drawn over the head and reaching 
to the ankles when they go on a journey, this being known 
as pichhova. In Chhattlsgarh all the requirements of fashion 
among women are satisfied by one cloth from 8 to i 2 yards 
long and about a yard wide, which envelops the person in 
one fold from tiie waist to below the knee, hanging some- 
what loosely. It is tied at the waist, and the remaining half 
is spread over the breast and drawn across the right shoulder. 


the end covering the head like a sheet and falling over the 
left shoulder. The simplicity of this solitary garment dis- 
plays a graceful figure to advantage, especially on festival 
days, when those who can afford it are arrayed in tasar silk. 
When a girl is married the bridegroom's family give her 
expensive clothes to wear at festivals and her own people 
give her ordinary clothes, but usually not more than will last 
a year. Whenever she goes back to her father's house after 
her marriage, he gives her one or two cloths if he can afford 
it. Women of the middle and lower classes wear ornaments 
of bell-metal, a mixture of copper and zinc, which are very 
popular. Some women wear brass and zinc ornaments, and 
well-to-do persons have them of silver or gold. 

Hot water is not used for bathing in Saugor, except by 39- Bath- 
invalids, but is customary in Betul and other Districts. '"^' 
The bathing-place in the court}'ard is usually a large square 
stone on which the bather sits ; he has a big circular brass 
vessel by him called gangdl} and from this he takes water 
either in a cup or with his hands and throws it over himself, 
rubbing his body. Where there is a tank or stream people go 
to bathe in it, and if there is none the poorer classes some- 
times bathe at the village well. Each man or woman has 
two body- or loin-cloths, and they change the cloth whenever 
they bathe — going into the water in the one which they have 
worn from the previous day, and changing into the other 
when they come out ; long practice enables them to do this 
in public without any undue exposure of the body. A good 
tank or a river is a great amenity to a village, especially if it 
has a gJidt or flight of stone steps. Many people will spend 
an hour or so here daily, disporting themselves in the water 
or on the bank, and wedding and funeral parties are held by 
it, owing to the facilities for ceremonial bathing. 

People who do not cultivate with their own hands have 40. Food, 
only two daily meals, one at midday and the other at eight 
or nine in the evening. Agriculturists require a third meal 
in the early morning before going out to the fields. Wheat 
and the millets juari and kodon are the staple foods of the 
cultivating classes in the northern Districts, and rice is kept 
for festivals. The millets are made into thick cJiapdtis or 

1 From Ganga, or the Ganges, and ala a pot. 


cakes, their flour not being sufficiently adhesive for thin ones, 
and are eaten with the pulses, lentils, arhar,^ mung^ and urad.^ 
The pulses are split into half and boiled in water, and when 
they get soft, chillies, salt and turmeric are mixed with 
them. Pieces of chapdti are broken off and dipped into this 
mixture. Various vegetables are also eaten. When pulse 
is not available the chapdtis are simply dipped into butter- 
milk. If chapdtis cannot be afforded at both meals, ghorna 
or the flour of kodon or juar boiled into a paste with water 
is substituted for them, a smaller quantity of this being 
sufficient to allay hunger. Wheat -cakes are fried in ghi 
(clarified butter) as a luxury, and at other times in sesamum 
oil. Rice or ground gram boiled in buttermilk are other 
favourite foods. 

In Chhattlsgarh rice is the common food : it is eaten 
with pulses at midday and with vegetables cooked in ghi in 
the evening. In the morning they drink a rice-gruel, called 
bdsi, which consists of the previous night's repast mixed with 
water and taken cold. On festivals rice is boiled in milk. 
Milk is often drunk at night, and there is a saying, " He who 
drinks water in the morning and milk at night and takes 
harra before he sleeps will never need a doctor." A little 
powdered harra or myrobalan acts as an aperient. The 
food of landowners and tenants is much the same, except 
that the former have more butter and vegetables, according 
to the saying, ' Rdj'a praja ka ekhi khdna^ or ' The king and 
peasant eat the same food.' Those who eat flesh have an 
occasional change of food, but most Kurmis abstain from it. 
Farmservants eat the gruel of rice or kodon boiled in water 
when they can afford it, and if not they eat mahua flowers. 
These are sometimes boiled in water, and the juice is then 
strained off and mixed with half-ground flour, and they are 
also pounded and made into chapdtis with flour and water. 
The leaves of the young gram-plants make a very favourite 
vegetable and are eaten raw, either moist or dried. In times 
of scarcity the poorer classes eat tamarind leaves, the pith 
of the banyan tree, the seeds of the bamboo, the bark of the 
semar tree,'* the fruit of the babur^ and other articles. A 

^ Cajanus indiais. '^ Phaseolus niungo. ^ Phaseolus radiatus. 

* Bombax malabaricum, ^ Acacia arabica. 


cultivator will eat 2 lbs. of grain a day if he can get it, or 
more in the case of rice. Their stomachs get distended 
owing to the large quantities of boiled rice eaten at one 
time. The leaves of the chirota or chakora, a little plant ^ 
which grows thickly at the commencement of the rains near 
inhabited sites, are also a favourite vegetable, and a resource 
in famine time. The people call it ' Gaon ka tJidkiirl or 
' lord of the village,' and have a saying : 


Aiiiarbel aur kamalgaia, 
Gao?t ka thCikiir^ gat ka inatha^ 
Nagar sowdsan, tinmen /nilai, 
Khiij, dad, sehua inlt jawe. 

Amarbel is an endless creeper, with long yellow strings 
like stalks, which infests and destroys trees ; it is called 
amarbel or the immortal, because it has no visible root. 
Kamalgata is the seed of the lotus ; gai ka viatJia is butter- 
milk ; nagar sowdsan, * the happiness of the town,' is 
turmeric, because married women whose husbands are alive 
put turmeric on their foreheads every day ; k]idj\ dad and 
sehua are itch, ringworm and some kind of rash, perhaps 
measles ; and the verse therefore means : 

" Eat amarbel, lotus seeds, chirota, buttermilk and 
turmeric mixed together, and you will keep off itch, ring- 
worm and measles." Chirota is good for the itch. 

At the commencement of a marriage or other ceremonial 41. Caste- 
feast the host must wash the feet of all the guests himself '^^'^'^'^'^■ 
If he does not do this they will be dissatisfied, and, though 
they will eat at his house, will consider they have not been 
properly welcomed. He takes a large brass plate and 
placing the feet of his guest on it, pours water over them 
and then rubs and dries them ; the water is thrown away 
and fresh water poured out for the next guest unless they 
should be brothers. Little flat stools about three inches 
high are provided for the guests, and if there are not enough 
of them a carpet is spread ; or baitJikis or sitting-mats 
plaited from five or six large leaves are set out. These 
serve as a mark of attention, as it would be discourteous to 
make a man sit on the ground, and they also prevent the body- 

^ Cassia tora. 


cloth from getting wet. The guests sit in the chaiik or yard 
of the house inside, or in the angan or outside yard, either in 
lines or in a circle ; members of the same caste sit with 
their crossed knees actually touching those of the man on 
either side of them to emphasise their brotherhood ; if a 
man sat even a few inches apart from his fellows people 
would say he was out of caste — and this is how a man who 
is put out of caste actually does sit. Before each guest may 
be set two plates of leaves and eight donas or leaf-cups. On 
the plates are heaped rice, cakes of wheat fried in butter, 
and of husked urad pulse cooked with tilli or sesamum oil, 
and the pulse of gram and lentils. In the cups will be 
sugar, ghi^ dahi or curded milk, various vegetables, pumpkins, 
and besin or ground gram cooked with buttermilk. All the 
male members of the host's family serve the food and they 
take it round, heaping and pouring it into each man's plates 
or cups until he says enough ; and they continue to give 
further helpings as required. All the food is served at once 
in the different plates and cups, but owing to the number of 
guests a considerable time elapses before all are fully served, 
and the dinner lasts about two hours. The guests eat all 
the different dishes together with their fingers, taking a little 
of each according to their fancy. Each man has his lota or 
vessel of water by him and drinks as he eats. When the 
meal is finished large brass plates are brought in, one being 
given to about ten guests, and they wash their hands over 
these, pouring water on them from their vessels. A fresh 
carpet is then spread in the yard and the guests sit on it, 
and betel-leaf and tobacco are distributed. The huqqa is 
passed round, and cJiilams and chongis (clay pipe-bowls and 
leaf-pipes) are provided for those who want them. The 
women do not appear at the feast but stay inside, sitting in 
the ajigan or inner court, which is behind the purda. 
42. Hospi- The people still show great hospitality, and it is the 

taiity. custom of many malguzars, at least in Chhattisgarh, to afford 

food and a night's rest to all travellers who may require it. 
When a Brahman comes to the village such malguzars will 
give him one or two annas, and to a Pandit or learned man 
as much as a rupee. Formerly it is said that when any 
stranger came through the village he was at once offered a 


cup of milk and told to drink it or throw it away. But 
this custom has died out in Chhattlsgarh, though one has 
met with it once or twice in Sambalpur. When District 
Officers go on tour, well-to-do landowners ask to be allowed 
to supply free provisions for the whole camp at least for a 
day, and it is difficult to refuse them gracefully. In Mandla, 
]?anias and malguzars in villages near the Nerbudda some- 
times undertake to give a pound of grain to cvexy parikrama- 
zvdsi or pilgrim perambulating the Nerbudda. And as the 
number of these steadily increases in consequence, they 
often become impoverished as a result of such indiscriminate 

The Kurmis employ Brahmans for their ceremonies. 43. Social 
They have gurus or spiritual preceptors who may be Brah- !^^tt°'"r 
mans or Bairagis ; the guru is given from 8 annas to Rs. 5 
when he initiates a neophyte, as well as his food and a new 
white cloth. The gurii is occasionally consulted on some 
religious question, but otherwise he does nothing for his 
disciple except to pay him an occasional visit, when he 
is hospitably entertained. The Kurmis of the northern 
Districts do not as a rule eat meat and also abstain from 
alcohol, but in Chhattlsgarh they eat the flesh of clean 
animals and fish, and also of fowls, and drink country 
liquor. Old men often give up flesh and wine as a mark 
of piety, when they are known as Bhagat or holy. They 
will take food cooked with water only from Brahmans, and 
that cooked without water from Rajputs, Banias and 
Kayasths as well. Brahmans and Rajputs will take water 
from Kurmis in the northern Districts though not in 
Chhattlsgarh. Here the Kurmis do not object to eating 
cooked food which has been carried from the house to the 
fields. This is called rengai rati, and castes which will eat 
it are considered inferior to those who always take their 
food in the chaiika or purified place in the house. They 
say ' Ram, Ram ' to each other in greeting, and the Raipur 
Kurmis swear by a dog or a pig. Generally they do not 
plough on the new or full moon days. Their women are 
tattooed after marriage with dots on the cheeks, marks of 
flies on the fingers, scorpions on the arms, and other devices 
on the legs. 

VOL. IV - H 


44. Caste Permanent expulsion from caste is inflicted for a change 
penalties. Qf rcHgion, taking food or having sexual intercourse with a 

member of an impure caste, and for eating beef For killing 
a man, a cow, a buffalo, an ass, a horse, a squirrel, a cat or 
a monkey a man must purify himself by bathing in the 
Ganges at Allahabad or Benares and giving a feast to the 
caste. It will be seen that all these are domestic animals 
except the monkey, who is the god Hanuman. The squirrel 
is counted as a domestic animal because it is always about 
the house, and the souls of children are believed to go into 
squirrels. One household animal, the dog, is omitted, and 
he appears to be less sacred than the others. For getting 
maggots in a wound the offender must bathe in a sacred 
river, such as the Nerbudda or Mahanadi, and give a feast 
to the caste. For eating or having intercourse with a 
member of any caste other than the impure ones, or for a 
liaisofi within the caste, or for divorcing a wife or marrying a 
widow, or in the case of a woman for breaking her bangles 
in a quarrel with her husband, a penalty feast must be 
given. If a man omits to feast the caste after a death in 
his family a second feast is imposed, and if he insults the 
panchdyat he is fined. 

45. The The social status of the Kurmi appears to be that of 
cultivating {-^g cultivator. He is above the menial and artisan castes 

of the village and the impure weaving and labouring castes ; 
he is theoretically equal to the artisan castes of towns, but 
one or two of these, such as the Sunar or goldsmith and 
Kasar or brass-worker, have risen in the world owing to the 
prosperity or importance of their members, and now rank 
above the Kurmi. The Kurmi's status appears to be that 
of the cultivator and member of the village community, but 
a large proportion of the Kurmis are recruited from the 
non-Aryan tribes, who have obtained land and been 
admitted into the caste, and this tends to lower the status 
of the caste as a whole. In the Punjab Kurmis apparently 
do not hold land and are employed in grass-cutting, weav- 
ing, and tending horses, and are even said to keep pigs.^ 
Here their status is necessarily very low as they follow the 
occupations of the impure castes. The reason why the 

* Punjab Census Report (1881), p. 340. 



Kurini as cultivator ranks above the village handicraftsmen 
may perhaps be that industrial pursuits were despised in 
early times and left to the impure Sudras and to the castes 
of mixed descent ; while agriculture and trade were the 
occupations of the Vaishya. Further, the village artisans 
and menials were supported before the general use of 
current coin by contributions of grain from the cultivators 
and by presents of grain at seed-time and harvest ; and 
among the Hindus it is considered very derogatory to 
accept a gift, a man who does so being held to admit his 
social inferiority to the giver. Some exception to this is 
made in the case of Brahmans, though even with them the 
rule partly applies. Of these two reasons for the cultivator's 
superiority to the menial and artisan castes the former has 
to a large extent lost its force. The handicrafts are no 
longer considered despicable, and, as has been seen, some 
of the urban tradesmen, as the Sunar and Kasar, now rank 
above the Kurmi, or are at least equal to him. Perhaps 
even in ancient times these urban artificers were not 
despised like the village menials, as their skill was held 
in high repute. But the latter ground is still in full force 
and effect in the Central Provinces at least : the village 
artisans are still paid by contributions from the cultivator 
and receive presents from him at seed-time and harvest. 
The remuneration of the village menials, the blacksmith, 
carpenter, washerman, tanner, barber and waterman is paid 
at the rate of so much grain per plough of land according 
to the estimated value of the work done by them for the 
cultivators during the year. Other village tradesmen, as 
the potter, oilman and liquor-vendor, are no longer paid in 
grain, but since the introduction of currency sell their wares 
for cash ; but there seems no reason to doubt that in former 
times when no money circulated in villages they were re- 
munerated in the same manner. They still all receive 
presents, consisting of a sowing-basketful of grain at seed- 
time and one or two sheaves at harvest. The former are 
known as Bijphuti, or ' the breaking of the seed,' and the 
latter as Khanvdr, or ' that which is left' In Bilaspur the 
Kamias or village menials also receive as much grain as will 
fill a winnowing-fan when it has been threshed. When the 


peasant has harvested his grain all come and beg from him. 

The Dhlmar brings waternut, the Kachhi or market-gardener 

some chillies, the Teli oil and tobacco, the Kalar some liquor 

if he drinks it, the Bania some sugar, and all receive grain 

in excess of the value of their gifts. The village menials 

come for their customary dues, and the Brahman, the Nat 

or acrobat, the Gosain or religious mendicant, and the Fakir 

or Muhammadan beggar solicit alms. On that day the 

cultivator is like a little king in his fields, and it is said that 

sometimes a quarter of the crop may go in this way ; but 

the reference must be only to the spring crop and not to the 

whole holding. In former times grain must have been the 

principal source of wealth, and this old custom gives us 

a reason for the status of the cultivator in Hindu society. 

There is also a saying : 

Uttam kheti, madhyam ban, 
Kanisht chdkri, bhik niddn, 

or ' Cultivation is the best calling, trade is respectable, service 
is menial, and begging is degraded.' 
46. Occu- The Kurmi is the typical cultivator. He loves his land, 

pation. ^j^^ |-Q jQgg j|. jg ^Q break the mainspring of his life. His land 
gives him a freedom and independence of character which is 
not found among the English farm-labourers. He is in- 
dustrious and plodding, and inured to hardship. In some 
Districts the excellent tilth of the Kurmi's fields well portrays 
the result of his persevering labour, which he does not grudge 
to the land because it is his own. His wife is in no way 
behind him ; the proverb says, " Good is the caste of the 
Kurmin ; with a hoe in her hand she goes to the fields and 
works with her husband." The Chandnahu Kurmi women 
arc said to be more enterprising than the men, keeping them 
up to their work, and managing the business of the farm as 
well as the household. 

List of Exogamous Clans 

Sections of the Chandnahu subcaste : 
Chdnwar bainbar . Fly fan. 

^andil . . . Name of a Rishi. 



Saddphal . 
K at hail 



Chatur Midalia 




Sanmnd Karkari 



Bdghmdr . 

Hardfiba . 


Ghiu Sdgar 

D/iara/n D/m? 







Paipakhdr . 



Sd/id Sathi 


Agra — Chandan 

Tek Sanichar 


Pukharia . 

Dhubinha . 


Modganga . 



A fruit. 


Spender of gold. 

Kai/i, wood, or kaihtJiii^ catechu. 

Benares. The Desha Kurmis are all of this 

gotra. It may also be a corruption of 

Kachhap, tortoise. 
Dhor, cattle. 
A mountain. 
C/iatur, clever. 

After the Rishi of that name ; also a bird. 
Name of a Rishi. 

A particle in an ocean. 
Akdl, famine. 
Green grass. 
Kd7is, a kind of grass. 
Ocean oi ghi. 
Most charitable. 
Singh, a lion. 
Belonging to Chimangarh. 
Belonging to Khairagarh. 
A Rishi. 
A Rishi. 

From Pandaria, a village. 
One who washes feet. 
One who washes arms. 
Chaurai, a vegetable. 
Sdnd, bullock. 
Singh, lion or horn. 

Dhobi, a caste. 
Pdiuan, air. 

Sections of the (}abel subcaste : 

Ganges water. 

Bearer of a lathi (stick). 

Gangajal . 
Biinba Lohir 
Rdja Rdtuat 
Bdnh pagar 
Parasrdm . 


Royal prince. 


With a thread on the arm. 




Katarmal . 
ChatcJid7i . 
Gajinani . 
Deori Suiner 
Lahura Samudra 
Sunwani . 

Katdr, dagger. 
Sept of Rajputs. 
Small sea. 
Haus, goose. 

Sections of the Santora subcaste : 

Narvaria . . . Narwar, a town in Gwalior State. 








Mundhra, a village. 

Naogaon, a town in Bundelkhand. 

Piparia, a village. 

Dindori, a village in Mandla District. 

A village. 

Bd7td/iy embankment. 

Wooden pestle. 

Sections of the Tirole subcaste 


Bdgh, tiger, or a sept of Rajputs 


Clan of Rajputs. 


Clan of Rajputs. 


Clan of Rajputs. 


Aonla, a fruit-bearing tree. 


Sindi, date-palm tree. 


Khiisiy happiness. 


Saji, hemp. 




BMkar, a thick bread. 

tions of the Gaur subcc 

iste : 

B/ta?tddri . 



Diidh, milk. 


A headman. 



Kutnarta . 

A potter. 


Seoni town. 

Chhafiari'a . 

Chhapara, a town. 


A tree. 


A village. 

Ketharia . 

Ket/iy a fruit. 


Perhaps a village. 

B/tadofia . 


Rurgaiynn . 



Mfisar, a pestle. 

Sections of tlie Usrete subcaste : 

Shikdrc . . . Hunter. 

Na/inr . . Tiger. 



Sinuaiyufi . 

Sengaiyaii ox Sin. 
Harkotia . 










Gursarai, a town. 

A village. 

Sand, a bull. 

Sirwai, a village. 

A village. 

Scngai, a village. 

Harkoti, a village. 

Norai, a village. 

Lareti, a village. 

Rabai, a village. 

(Lakori village. It is said that whoever 
utters the name of this section early in 
the morning is sure to remain hungry 
the whole day, or at least will get into 
some trouble that day.) 

Dhundakna, to roll. 

Badagaon, a large village. 

Kot, a fort. 

Billt, cat. 

Stump of a tree. 

Sections of the Kanaujia subcaste : 

Tidha. — From Tidha, a village. This section is subdivided into 

{a) Ghureparke (of the cow-dung hill) ; ijf) Dzudrpurke (of the 

door) ; and (t) Jangi (warrior). 

Chamania. — From Chamyani (village) 

into : 

(a) Gomarhya. 
{b) Mathuria (Muttra town). 
Chmidhri (caste headman). This is divided as follows : 

This is also subdivided 

{a) MajhgaiiJdn 
{b) Ptin'a thok . 

(c) Pashcliim thok 

(d) Bainurya 

Chilolidn . 

. A village. 

Eastern group. 

Western group. 

A village. 

Perhaps sailor or wrestler. 
Chiloli, a village. 
Dhanu Kheda, a village. 

I. General 



1. Ge7ieral notice. 5. Red^ a lucky colour. 

2. Social customs. 6. Veruiilioti and spangles. 

3. The lac industry. 7. Red dye on the feet. 

4. Lac bangles. 8. Red threads. 

9. Lac toys. 

Lakhera, Laheri. — The small caste whose members 
make bangles and other articles of lac. About 3000 
persons were shown as belonging to the caste in the Central 
Provinces in 191 i, being most numerous in the Jubbulpore, 
Chhindwara and Betul Districts. From Berar 150 persons 
were returned, chiefly from Amraoti. The name is derived 
from the Sanskrit laksJia-kara, a worker in lac. The 
caste, are a mixed functional group closely connected with 
the Kacheras and Patwas ; no distinction being recognised 
between the Patwas and Lakheras in some localities of the 
Central Provinces. Mr, Baillie gives the following notice of 
them in the Census Report of the North- Westcni Provinces 
(1891): "The accounts given by members of the caste 
of their origin are very various and sometimes ingenious. 
One story is that like the Patwas, with whom they are 
connected, they were originally Kayasths. According to 
another account they were made from the dirt washed from 
Parvati before her marriage with Siva, being created by the 
god to make bangles for his wife, and hence called Deobansi. 
Again, it is stated, they were created by Krishna to make 
bangles for the Gopis or milkmaids. The most elaborate 
account is that they were originally Yaduvansi Rajputs, 
who assisted the Kurus to make a fort of lac, in which 
the Pandavas were to be treacherously burned. For this 



traitorous conduct they were degraded and compelled 
eternally to work in lac or glass." 

The bulk of these artisan and manufacturing castes tell 2. Social 
stories showing that their ancestors were Kayasths and 
Rajputs, but no importance can be attached to such legends, 
which are obviously manufactured by the family priests to 
minister to the harmless vanity of their clients. To support 
their claim the Lakheras have divided themselves like the 
Rajputs into the Surajvansi and Somvansi subcastes or those 
who belong to the Solar and Lunar races. Other sub- 
divisions are the Marwari or those coming from Marwar 
in Rajputana, and the Tarkhera or makers of the large 
earrings which low-caste women wear. These consist of a 
circular piece of wood or fibre, nearly an inch across, which 
is worked through a large hole in the lobe of the ear. It 
is often the stalk of the anibdri fibre, and on the outer 
end is fixed a slab decorated with little pieces of glass. The 
exogamous sections of the Lakheras are generally named after 
animals, plants and natural objects, and indicate that the 
caste is recruited from the lower classes of the population. 
Their social customs resemble those of the middle and lower 
Hindustani castes. Girls are married at an early age when 
the parents can afford the expense of the ceremony, but 
no penalty is incurred if the wedding is postponed for want 
of means. The remarriage of widows and divorce are per- 
mitted. They eat flesh, but not fowls or pork, and some of 
them drink liquor, while others abstain. Rajputs and Banias 
will take water from them, but not Brahmans. In Bombay, 
however, they are considered to rank above Kunbis. 

The traditional occupation of the Lakheras is to make 3. The lac 
and sell bangles and other articles of lac. Lac is regarded '° "^"^^' 
with a certain degree of superstitious repugnance by the 
Hindus because of its red colour, resembling blood. On 
this account and also because of the sin committed in 
killing them, no Hindu caste will propagate the lac insect, 
and the calling is practised only by Gonds, Korkus and other 
primitive tribes. Even Gonds will often refuse employment 
in growing lac if they can make their living by cultivation. 
Various superstitions attach to the propagation of the insects 
to a fresh tree. This is done in Kunwar (September) and 

io6 LAKHERA part 

always by men, the insects being carried in a leaf-cup and 
placed on a branch of an uninfected tree, usually the kusum} 
It is said that the work should be done at night and the 
man should be naked when he places the insects on the 
tree. The tree is fenced round and nobody is allowed to 
touch it, as it is considered that the crop would thus be 
spoiled. If a woman has lost her husband and has to sow 
lac, she takes her son in her arms and places the cup 
containing the insects on his head ; on arriving at the tree 
she manages to apply the insects by means of a stick, not 
touching the cup with her own hands. All this ritual 
attaches simply to the infection of the first tree, and after- 
wards in January or February the insects are propagated on 
to other trees without ceremony. The juice of onions is 
dropped on to them to make them healthy. The stick-lac 
is collected by the Gonds and Korkus and sold to the 
Lakheras ; they clear it of wood as far as possible and 
then place the incrusted twigs and bark in long cotton bags 
and heat them before a fire, squeezing out the gum, which 
is spread out on flat plates so as to congeal into the shape 
of a pancake. This is again heated and mixed with white 
clay and forms the material for the bangles. They are 
coloured with ckapra, the pure gum prepared like sealing- 
wax, which is mixed with vermilion, or arsenic and turmeric 
for a yellow colour. In some localities at least only the 
Lakheras and Patwas and no higher caste will sell articles 
made of lac. 
4. Lac The trade in lac bangles has now greatly declined, as 

bangles, ^y^^y have been supplanted by the more ornamental glass 
bangles. They are thick and clumsy and five of them will 
cover a large part of the space between the elbow and the 
wrist. They may be observed on Banjara women. Lac 
bangles are also still used by the Hindus, generally on 
ceremonial occasions, as at a marriage, when they are pre- 
sented to and worn by the bride, and during the month of 
Shrawan (July), when the Hindus observe a fast on behalf 
of the growing crops and the women wear bangles of lac. 
For these customs Mr. Hira Lai suggests the explanation 
that lac bangles were at one time generally worn by the 

^ Schleichcra irijiiga. 


Hindus, while glass ones are a comparatively recent fiishion 
introduced by the Muhammadans. In support of this it 
may be urged that glass bangles are largely made by the 
Muhammadan Turkari or Sisgar, and also that lac bangles 
must have been worn prior to glass ones, because if the latter 
had been known the clumsy and unornamental bracelet made 
of lac and clay could never have come into existence. The 
wearing of lac bangles on the above occasions would there- 
fore be explained according to the common usage of adhering 
on religious and ceremonial occasions to the more ancient 
methods and accessories, which are sanctified by association 
and custom. Similarly the Holi pyre is often kindled with 
fire produced by the friction of wood, and temples are 
lighted with vegetable instead of mineral oil. 

It may be noted, however, that lac bangles are not s- Ked, a 
always worn by the bride at a wedding, the custom being colour. 
unknown in some localities. Moreover, it appears that glass 
was known to the Hindus at a period prior to the Muham- 
madan invasions, though bangles may not have been made 
from it. Another reason for the use of lac bangles on the 
occasions noticed is that lac, as already seen, represents 
blood. Though blood itself is now repugnant to the Hindus, 
yet red is pre-eminently their lucky colour, being worn at 
weddings and generally preferred. It is suggested in the 
Bombay Gazetteer ^ that blood was lucky as having been the 
first food of primitive man, who learnt to suck the blood 
of animals before he ate their flesh. But it does not seem 
necessary to go back quite so far as this. The earliest form 
of sacrifice, as shown by Professor Robertson Smith,""^ was 
that in wbiich the community of kinsmen ate together the 
flesh of their divine or totem animal god and drank its 
blood. When the god became separated from the animal 
and was represented by a stone at the place of worship and 
the people had ceased to eat raw flesh and drink blood, the 
blood was poured out over the stone as an offering to the 
god. This practice still obtains among the lower castes 
of Hindus and the primitive tribes, the blood of animals 
offered to Devi and other village deities being allowed to 
drop on to the stones representing them. But the higher 

• Iliiiiiiis 0/ Ctijanlf, A\^\^.,Ax\.. Vaghii, footnote. - Religion of lite Semites. 

lo8 LAKHERA part 

castes of Hindus have abandoned animal sacrifices, and 
hence cannot make the blood - offering. In place of it 
they smear the stone with vermilion, which seems obviously 
a substitute for blood, since it is used to colour the stones 
representing the deities in exactly the same manner. Even 
vermilion, however, is not offered to the highest deities of 
Neo- Hinduism, Siva or Mahadeo and Vishnu, to whom 
animal sacrifices would be abhorrent. It is offered to 
Hanuman, whose image is covered with it, and to Devi and 
Bhairon and to the many local and village deities. In past 
times animal sacrifices were offered to Bhairon, as they still 
are to Devi, and though it is not known that they were 
made to Hanuman, this is highly probable, as he is the god 
of strength and a mighty warrior. The Manbhao mendicants, 
who abhor all forms of bloodshed like the Jains, never pass 
one of these stones painted with vermilion if they can avoid 
doing so, and if they are aware that there is one on their 
road will make a circuit so as not to see it.^ There seems, 
therefore, every reason to suppose that vermilion is a sub- 
stitute for blood in offerings and hence probably on other 
occasions. As the places of the gods were thus always 
coloured red with blood, red would come to be the divine 
and therefore the propitious colour among the Hindus and 
other races. 
6. Ver- Among the constituents of the Sohag or lucky trousseau 

mihonand vvithout which no Hiudu girl of good caste can be married 
are sendur or vermilion, kunku or red powder or a spangle 
itikli), and mahdwar or red balls of cotton-wool. In 
Chhattlsgarh and Bengal the principal marriage rite is usually 
the smearing of vermilion by the bridegroom on the parting 
of the bride's hair, and elsewhere this is commonly done as 
a subsidiary ceremony. Here also there is little reason to 
doubt that vermilion is a substitute for blood ; indeed, in 
some castes in Bengal, as noted by Sir H. Risley, the blood 
of the parties is actually mixed.^ This marking of the bride 
with blood is a result of the sacrifice and communal feast of 
kinsmen already described ; only those who could join in the 
sacrificial meal and cat the flesh of the sacred animal god 

1 Mackintosh, Neport on the Miin- ^ See articles on Khaiiwar and 

bhaos. Kewat. 


were kin to it and to each other ; but in quite early times the 
custom prevailed of taking wives from outside the clan ; 
and consequently, to admit the wife into her husband's kin, 
it was necessary that she also should drink or be marked 
with the blood of the god. The mixing of blood at marriage 
appears to be a relic of this, and the marking of the fore- 
head with vermilion is a substitute for the anointing with 
blood. Kimkti is a pink powder made of turmeric, lime- 
juice and borax, which last is called by the Hindus ' the 
milk of Anjini,' the mother of Hanuman. It seems to be a 
more agreeable substitute for vermilion, whose constant use 
has probably an injurious effect on the skin and hair. Kunku 
is used in the Maratha country in the same way as vermilion, 
and a married woman will smear a little patch on her fore- 
head every day and never allow her husband to see her 
without it. She omits it only during the monthly period of 
impurity. The iikli or spangle is worn in the Hindustani 
Districts and not in the south. It consists of a small piece 
of lac over which is smeared vermilion, while above it a piece 
of mica or thin glass is fixed for ornament. Other adorn- 
ments may be added, and women from Rajputana, such as 
the Marwari Banias and Banjaras, wear large spangles set 
in gold with a border of jewels if they can afford it. The 
spangle is made and sold by Lakheras and Patwas ; it is 
part of the Sohag at marriages and is affixed to the girl's 
forehead on her wedding and thereafter always worn ; as a 
rule, if a woman has a spangle it is said that she does not 
smear vermilion on her forehead, though both may occasionally 
be seen. The name tikli is simply a corruption of tlka, which 
means a mark of anointing or initiation on the forehead ; as 
has been seen, the basis of the tikli is vermilion smeared on 
lac-clay, and it is made by Lakheras ; and there is thus good 
reason to suppose that the spangle is also a more ornamental 
substitute for the smear of vermilion, the ancient blood-mark 
by which a married woman was admitted into her husband's 
clan. At her marriage a bride must always receive the glass 
bangles and the vermilion, kunku, or spangle from her husband, 
the other ornaments of the Sohag being usually given to her 
by her parents. Unmarried girls now also sometimes wear 
small ornamental spangles, and put kufiku on 'their foreheads. 

no LA K HERA part 

But before marriage it is optional and afterwards compulsory. 
A widow may not wear vermilion, kunkii, or spangles, 

7. Red dye The Lakheras also sell balls of red cotton-wool known 
on the feet, ^g vidJuiT ki gulcU OX iiiahdwar. The cotton-wool is dipped in 

the melted lac-gum and is rubbed on to the feet of women to 
colour them red or pink at marriages and festivals. This 
is done by the barber's wife, who will colour the feet of the 
whole party, at the same time drawing lines round the 
outside of the foot and inward from the toes. The 
mahdwar is also an essential part of the Sohag of marriage. 
Instead of lac the Muhammadans use viehndi or henna, the 
henna-leaves being pounded with catechu and the mixture 
rubbed on to the feet and hands. After a little time it is 
washed off and a red dye remains on the skin. It is supposed 
that the similar custom which prevailed among the ancient 
Greeks is alluded to in the epithet of * rosy-fingered Aurora.' 
The Hindus use henna dye only in the month Shrawan 
(July), which is a period of fasting ; the auspicious kunku and 
mahdwar are therefore perhaps not considered suitable at 
such a time, but as special protection is needed against evil 
spirits, the necessary red colouring is obtained from henna. 
When a married woman rubs henna on her hands, if the 
dye comes out a deep red tinge, the other women say that 
her husband is not in love with her ; but if of a pale yellowish 
tinge, that he is very much in love. 

8. Red The Lakheras and Patwas also make the kardora or 
threads. waist-band of red thread. This is worn by Hindu men and 

women, except Maratha Brahmans. After he is married, if 
a man breaks this thread he must not take food until he has 
put on a fresh one, and the same rule applies to a woman 
all her life. Other threads are the rdkhis tied round the 
wrists for protection against evil spirits on the day of 
Rakshabandhan, and the necklets of silk or cotton thread 
wound round with thin silver wire, which the Hindus put on 
at Anant Chaudas and frequently retain for the whole year. 
The colour of all these threads is generally red in the first 
place, but they soon get blackened by contact with the skin. 

9. Lac Toys of lac are especially made during the fast of 
toys. Shrawan (July). At this time for five years after her mar- 
riage a Hindu bride receives annually from her husband a 

n LAC TOYS in 

present called Shraoni, or that which is i^iven in Shrawan. It 
consists of a cJtakri or reel, to which a string is attached, and 
the reel is thrown up into the air and wound and unwound 
on the string ; a bJtora or wooden top spun by a string ; a 
bafisuli or wooden flute ; a stick and ball, lac bangles and a 
spangle, and cloth, usually of red chintz. All these toys are 
made by the carpenter and coloured red with lac by the 
Lakhera, with the exception of the bangles which may be 
yellow or green. For five years the bride plays with the 
toys, and then they are sent to her no longer as her childhood 
has passed. It is probable that some, if not all of them, are 
in a manner connected with the crops, and supposed to have 
a magical influence, because during the same period it is the 
custom for boys to walk on stilts and play at swinging them- 
selves ; and in these cases the original idea is to make the 
crops grow as high as the stilts or swing. As in the other 
cases, the red colour appears to have a protective influence 
against evil spirits, who are more than usually active at a 
time of fasting. 



1 . Origin and traditions. 7. Widow-marriage and puberty 

2. Positioji in the Central Pro- rite. 

vi7tces. 8. Mourning impurity. 

3. Subdivisions. 9. Social customs. 

4. Exogamous groups. 10. Greetings and method of 

5. Marriage customs. address. 

6. The Gaufia ceremony. Fa'- 1 1 . Sacred thread and social 

tility rites. status. 

I. Origin Lodhl, Lodha. — An important agricultural caste resid- 

^"■^l. . ing principally in the Vindhyan Districts and Nerbudda 
valley, whence they have spread to the Wainganga valley 
and the Khairagarh State of Chhattlsgarh. Their total 
strength in the Province is 300,000 persons. The Lodhis 
are immigrants from the United Provinces, in whose 
Gazetteers it is stated that they belonged originally to the 
Ludhiana District and took their name from it. Their proper 
designation is Lodha, but it has become corrupted to Lodhi 
in the Central Provinces. A number of persons resident in 
the Harda tahsll of Hoshangabad are called Lodha and say 
that they are distinct from the Lodhis. There is nothing to 
support their statement, however, and it is probable that they 
simply represent the separate wave of immigration which 
took place from Central India into the Hoshangabad and 
Bctul Districts in the fifteenth century. They spoke a 
different dialect of the group known as Rajasthani, and hence 
perhaps the caste-name did not get corrupted. The Lodhis 
of the Jubbulpore Division probably came here at a later 
date from northern India. The Mandla Lodhis are said to 
have been brought to the District by Raja Hirde Sah of the 
Gond-Rajput dynasty of Garha-Mandla in the seventeenth 


century, and they were given large grants of the waste land 
in the interior in order that they might clear it of forest.' 
The Lodhis are a good instance of a caste who have obtained 
a great rise in social status on migrating to a new area. In 
northern India Mr. Nesfield places them lowest among the 
agricultural castes and states that they are little better than 
a forest tribe. He derives the name from lod, a clod, accord- 
ing to which Lodhi would mean clodhopper." Another 
suggestion is that the name is derived from the bark of the 
lodJi tree,^ which is collected by the Lodhas in northern India 
and sold for use as a dyeing agent. In Bulandshahr they are 
described as " Of short stature and uncouth appearance, and 
from this as well as from their want of a tradition of immi- 
gration from other parts they appear to be a mixed class 
proceeding from aboriginal and Aryan parents. In the 
Districts below Agra they are considered so low that no one 
drinks water touched by them ; but this is not the case in 
the Districts above Agra." "^ In Hamlrpur they appear to 
have some connection with the Kurmis, and a story told of 
them in Sanger is that the first Lodhi was created by Mahadeo 
from a scarecrow in a Kurmi woman's field and given the 
vocation of a farmservant. But the Lodhis themselves 
claim Rajput ancestry and say that they are descended from 
Lava, the eldest of the two sons of Raja Ramchandra of 

In the Central Provinces they have become landholders 2. Position 
and are addressed by the honorific title of Thakur, rankino: 11? '^^*^ , 

•' ' "^ Central 

with the higher cultivating castes. Several Lodhi land- Provinces, 
holders in Damoh and Saugor formerly held a quasi- 
independent position under the Muhammadans, and subse- 
quently acknowledged the Raja of Panna as their suzerain, 
who conferred on some families the titles of Raja and Diwan. 
They kept up a certain amount of state and small contingents 
of soldiery, attended by whom they went to pay their respects 
to the representative of the ruling power. " It would be 
difficult," says Grant,^ " to recognise the descendants of the 

' Colonel Ward's Mandla Settle- * Raja I-achman Singh's j9;//:/;/^j/;a^r 

ment Report, p. 29. Aleiiio, p. 182, quoted in Mr. Crooke's 

■^ Brief Vieiv of the Caste System, Tribes and Castes, art. Lodha. 

p. 14. ^ Narsint^hpur Settlement Report 

•^ Symplocos racemosa. (1866), p. 28. 



peaceful cultivators of northern India in the strangely- 
accoutred Rajas who support their style and title by a score 
of ragged matchlock-men and a ruined mud fort on a hill- 
side." Sir B. Fuller's Danioh Settlement Report says of 
them : " A considerable number of villages had been for long 
time past in the possession of certain important families, 
who held them by prescription or by a grant from the ruling 
power, on a right which approximated as nearly to the 
English idea of proprietorship as native custom permitted. 
The most prominent of these families were of the Lodhi 
caste. They have developed tastes for sport and freebooting 
and have become decidedly the most troublesome item in the 
population. During the Mutiny the Lodhis as a class were 
openly disaffected, and one of their proprietors, the Talukdar 
of Hindoria, marched on the District headquarters and looted 
the treasury." Similarly the Ramgarh family of Mandla 
took to arms and lost the large estates till then held 
by them. On the other hand the village of Imjhira in 
Narsinghpur belonging to a Lodhi malguzar was gallantly 
defended against a band of marauding rebels from Saugor. 
Sir R. Craddock describes them as follows : " They are men 
of strong character, but their constant family feuds and love 
of faction militate against their prosperity. A cluster of 
Lodhi villages forms a hotbed of strife and the nearest 
relations are generally divided by bitter animosities. The 
Revenue Officer who visits them is beset by reckless charges 
and counter-charges and no communities are less amenable 
to conciliatory compromises. Agrarian outrages are only 
too common in some of the Lodhi villages." ^ The high 
status of the Lodhi caste in the Central Provinces as 
compared with their position in the country of their origin 
may be simply explained by the fact that they here became 
landholders and ruling chiefs. 
3. Sub- In the northern Districts the landholding Lodhis are 

divisions. (jivi(5ej into a number of exogamous clans who marry with 
each other in imitation of the Rajputs. These are the 
Mahdele, Kerbania, Dongaria, Narwaria, Bhadoria and others. 
The name of the Kerbanias is derived from Kerbana, a village 
in Damoh, and the Balakote family of that District are the 

' Nagpur Settkmejtl Report, p. 24. 


head of the clan. The Mahdeles are the highest clan and 
have the titles of Raja and Diwan, while the others hold 
those of Rao and Kunwar, the terms Diwan and Kunwar 
being always applied to the younger brother of the head 
of the house. These titles are still occasionally conferred 
by the Raja of Panna, whom the Lodhi clans looked on 
as their suzerain. The name of the Mahdeles is said to 
be derived from the meJmdi or henna plant. The above 
clans sometimes practise hypergamy among themselves and 
also with the other Lodhis, taking daughters from the latter 
on receipt of a large bridegroom-price for the honour con- 
ferred by the marriage. This custom is now, however, 
tending to die out. There are also several endogamous 
subcastes ranking below the clans, of whom the principal 
are the Singrore, Jarha, Jangra and Mahalodhi. The 
Singrore take their name from the old town of Singraur 
or Shrengera in northern India, Singrore, like Kanaujia, 
being a common subcaste name among several castes. It 
is also connected more lately with the Singram Ghat or 
ferry of the Ganges in Allahabad District, and the title of 
Rawat is said to have been conferred on the Singrore 
Lodhis by the emperor Akbar on a visit there. The 
Jarha Lodhis belong to Mandla. The name is probably a 
form of Jharia or jungly, but since the leading members 
of the caste have become large landholders they repudiate 
this derivation. The Jangra Lodhis are of Chhattlsgarh, 
and the Mahalodhis or ' Great Lodhis ' are an inferior group 
to which the offspring of irregular unions are or were 
relegated. The Mahalodhis are said to condone adultery 
either by a man or woman on penalty of a feast to the caste. 
Other groups are the Hardiha, who grow turmeric {Jialdi), and_ 
the Gwalhare or cowherds. The Lodhas of Hoshangabad 
may also be considered a separate subcaste. They disclaim 
connection with the Lodhis, but the fact that the parent 
caste in the United Provinces is known as Lodha appears 
to establish their identity. They abstain from flesh and 
liquor, which most Lodhis consume. 

This division of the superior branch of a caste into large 
exogamous clans and the lower one into endogamous sub- 
castes is only found, so far as is known, among the Rajputs 


and one or two landholding castes who have imitated them. 

Its origin is discussed in the Introduction. 

4. Exo- The subcastes are as usual divided into exogamous 

gamous gj.Qupg q{ j-j^g territorial, titular and totemistic classes. 

Among sections named after places may be mentioned the 

Chandpuria from Chandpur, the Kharpuria from Kharpur, 

and the Nagpuriha, Raipuria, Dhamonia, Damauha and 

Shahgariha from Nagpur, Raipur, Dhamoni, Damoh and 

Shahgarh. Two-thirds of the sections have the names of 

towns or villages. Among titular names are Saulakhia, 

owner of 100 lakhs, Bhainsmar, one who killed a buffalo, 

Kodonchor, one who stole kodon,^ Kumharha perhaps from 

Kumhar a potter, and Rajbhar and Barhai (carpenter), 

names of castes. Among totemistic names are Baghela, tiger, 

also the name of a Rajput sept ; Kutria, a dog ; Khajuria, 

the date-palm tree ; Mirchaunia, chillies ; Andwar, from the 

castor-oil plant ; Bhainsaiya, a buffalo ; and Nak, the nose. 

5. Mar- A man must not marry in his own section nor in that of 

riage j-^jg mother. He may marry two sisters. The exchange of 

customs. - ... . , . ^ 1 -n-1- 

girls between families is only m force among the Bilaspur 
Lodhis, who say, ' Eat with those who have eaten with you 
and marry with those who have married with you.' Girls 
are usually wedded before puberty, but in the northern 
Districts the marriage is sometimes postponed from desire 
to marry into a good family or from want of funds to pay a 
bridegroom-price, and girls of twenty or more may be un- 
married. A case is known of a man who had two daughters 
unmarried at twenty-two and twenty-three years old, because 
he had been waiting for good partis, with the result that one 
of them went and lived with a man and he then married off 
,the other in the Singhast ^ year, which is forbidden among the 
Lodhis, and was put out of caste. The marriage and other 
ceremonies of the Lodhis resemble those of the Kurmis, 
except in Chhattlsgarh where the Maratha fashion is followed. 
Here, at the wedding, the bride and bridegroom hold between 
them a doll made of dough with 2 1 cowries inside, and as 
the priest repeats the marriage texts they pull it apart like 
a cracker and see how many cowries each has got. It is 

' A small millet. Jupiter is in conjunction with the con- 

2 Every twelfth year when ihe planet .stcllation Sinh (Leo). 


considered auspicious if the bridegroom has the larger 
number. The priest is on the roof of the house, and before 
the wedding he cries out : 

* Are the king and queen here ? ' And a man below 
answers, ' Yes.' 

* Have they shoes on their feet ? ' ' Yes.' 

* Have they bracelets on their hands ? ' ' Yes.' 
' Have they rings in their ears ? ' ' Yes.' 

' Have they crowns on their heads ? ' ' Yes.' 

' Has she glass beads round her neck ? ' ' Yes.' 

' Have they the doll in their hands ? ' ' Yes.' 
And the priest then repeats the marriage texts and beats 
a brass dish while the doll is pulled apart. In the 
northern Districts after the wedding the bridegroom must 
untie one of the festoons of the marriage-shed, and if he 
refuses to do this, it is an indelible disgrace on the bride's 
party. Before doing so he requires a valuable present, such 
as a buffalo. 

When the girl becomes mature the Gauna or going-away 6. The 
ceremony is performed. In Chhattlsgarh before leaving her ^^emony 
home the bride goes out with her sister and worships a palds Fertility 
tree.^ Her sister waves a lighted lamp seven times over it, '^' ^^' 
and the bride goes seven times round it in imitation of the 
marriage ceremony. At her husband's house seven pictures 
of the family gods are drawn on a wall inside the house and 
the bride worships these, placing a little sugar and bread on 
the mouth of each and bowing before them. She is then 
seated before the family god while an old woman brings a 
stone rolling-pin ^ wrapped up in a piece of cloth, which is 
supposed to be a baby, and the old woman imitates a baby 
crying. She puts the roller in the bride's lap saying, ' Take 
this and give it milk.' The bride is abashed and throws it 
aside. The old woman picks it up and shows it to the 
assembled women saying, ' The bride has just had a bab}-,' 
amid loud laughter. Then she gives the stone to the bride- 
groom who also throws it aside. This ceremony is meant 
to induce fertility, and it is supposed that by making believe 
that the bride has had a baby she will quickly have one. 

The higher clans of Lodhis in Damoh and Saugor pro- 

* Buteafrondosa. - This is known as lodha. 



7. Widow- 


8. Mourn- 

g. Social 

hibit the remarriage of widows, but instances of it occur. It 
is said that a man who marries a widow is relegated to the 
Mahalodhi subcaste or the Lahuri Sen, an illegitimate group, 
and the Lodhis of his clan no longer acknowledge his family. 
But if a girl's husband dies before she has lived with him 
she may marry again. The other Lodhis freely permit 
widow-marriage and divorce. When a girl first becomes 
mature she is secluded, and though she may stay in the 
house cannot enter the cook-room. At the end of the period 
she is dressed in red cloth, and a present of cocoanuts stripped 
of their shells, sweetmeats, and a little money, is placed in 
her lap, while a few women are invited to a feast. This rite 
is also meant to induce fertility, the kernel of the cocoanut 
being held to resemble an unborn baby. 

The higher clans consider themselves impure for a period 
of 12 days after a birth, and if the birth falls in the Mul 
asterism or Nakshatra, for 27 days. After death they 
observe mourning for 10 days ; on the loth day they offer 
ten pindas or funeral cakes, and on the 1 1 th day make one 
large pinda or cake and divide it into eleven parts ; on the 
1 2th day they make sixteen /m^T^ia;.? and unite the spirit of the 
dead man with the ancestors ; and on the i 3th day they give a 
feast and feed Brahmans and are clean. The lower subcastes 
only observe impurity for three days after a birth and a death. 
Their funeral rites are the same as those of the Kurmis. 

The caste employ Brahmans for weddings, but not 
necessarily for birth and death ceremonies. They eat flesh 
and fish, and the bulk of the caste eat fowls and drink liquor, 
but the landowning section abjures these practices. They 
will take food cooked with water from Brahmans, and that 
cooked without water also from Rajputs, Kayasths and 
Sunars. In Narsinghpur they also accept cooked food from 
such a low caste as Rajjahrs,^ probably because the Rajjhars 
are commonly employed by them as farmservants, and hence 
have been accustomed to carry their master's food. A 
similar relation has been found to exist between the Panwar 
Rajputs and their Gond farmservants. The higher class 
Lodhis make an inordinate show of hospitality at their 

' The Rajjhars arc a low caste of farmservants and labourers, probably 
an offshoot of the Bhar tribe. 


weddings. The plates of the guests are piled up profusely 
with food, and these latter think it a point of honour never 
to refuse it or say enough. When melted butter is poured 
out into their cups the stream must never be broken as it 
passes from one guest to the other, or it is said that they 
will all get up and leave the feast. Apparently a lot of 
butter must be wasted on the ground. The higher clans 
seclude their women, and these when they go out must wear 
long clothes covering the head and reaching to the feet. 
The women are not allowed to wear ornaments of a cheaper 
metal than silver, except of course their glass bangles. The 
Mahalodhis will eat food cooked with water in the cook-room 
and carried to the fields, which the higher clans will not do. 
Their women wear the j-^7r/ drawn through the legs and knotted 
behind according to the Maratha fashion, but whenever they 
meet their husband's elder brother or any other elder of the 
family they must undo the knot and let the cloth hang down 
round their legs as a mark of respect. They wear no breast- 
cloth. Girls are tattooed before adolescence with dots on 
the chin and forehead, and marks on one hand. Before she 
is tattooed the girl is given sweets to eat, and during the 
process the operator sings songs in order that her attention 
may be diverted and she may not feel the pain. After she 
has finished the operator mutters a charm to prevent evil 
spirits from troubling the girl and causing her pain. 

The caste have some strict taboos on names and on 10. Greet- 
conversation between the sexes. A man will only address '"S^/^"'^ 

■' method of 

his wife, sister, daughter, paternal aunt or niece directly. If address. 
he has occasion to speak to some other woman he will 
take his daughter or other female relative with him and do 
his business through her. He will not speak even to his own 
women before a crowd. A woman will similarly only speak 
to her father, son or nephew, and father-, son- or younger 
brother-in-law. She will not speak to her elder brother-in- 
law, and she will not address her husband in the presence of 
his father, elder brother or any other relative whom he 
reveres. A wife will never call her husband by his name, 
but always address him as father of her son, and, if she has 
no son, will sometimes speak to him through his younger 
brother. Neither the father nor mother will call their eldest 


son by his name, but will use some other name. Similarly 
a daughter-in-law is given a fresh name on coming into the 
house, and on her arrival her mother-in-law looks at her 
for the first time through a guna or ring of baked gram-flour. 
A man meeting his father or elder brother will touch his 
feet in silence. One meeting his sister's husband, sister's 
son or son-in-law, will touch his feet and say, * Sahib, salaam! 
II. Sacred The higher clans invest boys with the sacred thread 

thread and either when they are initiated by a Guru or spiritual pre- 
status. ceptor, or when they are married. The thread is made by a 
Brahman and has five knots. Recently a large landholder 
in Mandla, a Jarha Lodhi, has assumed the sacred thread 
himself for the first time and sent round a circular to his 
caste-men enjoining them also to wear it. His family priest 
has produced a legend of the usual type showing how the 
Jarha Lodhis are Rajputs whose ancestors threw away their 
sacred threads in order to escape the vengeance of Parasurama. 
Generally in social position the Lodhis may be considered 
to rank with, but slightly above, the ordinary cultivating 
castes, such as the Kurmis. This superiority in no way 
arises from their origin, since, as already seen, they are a very 
low caste in their home in northern India, but from the fact 
that they have become large landholders in the Central 
Provinces and in former times their leaders exercised quasi- 
sovereign powers. Many Lodhis are fine-looking men and 
have still some appearance of having been soldiers. They 
are passionate and quarrelsome, especially in the Jubbulpore 
District. This is put forcibly in the saying that * A Lodhi's 
temper is as crooked as the stream of a bullock's urine.' 
They are generally cultivators, but the bulk of them are not 
very prosperous as they are inclined to extravagance and 
di.splay at weddings and on other ceremonial occasions. 

I. Legends Lohap, Khatl, Ghantra, Ghisari, Panchal. — The occu- 
ofthe national caste of blacksmiths. The name is derived from 

caste. i 

the Sanskrit Lauha-kdra, a worker in iron. In the Central 
Provinces the Lobar has in the past frequently combined the 
occupations of carpenter and blacksmith, and in such a 
capacity he is known as Khati. The honorific designations 
applied to the caste are Karlgar, which means skilful, and 


Mistri, a corruption of the English 'Master' or 'Mister.' 
In 191 I the Lohars numbered about 180,000 persons in 
the Central Provinces and Berar. The Lobar is indispens- 
able to the village economy, and the caste is found over 
the whole rural area of the Province. 

" Practically all the Lohars," Mr. Crooke writes,^ " trace 
their origin to Visvakarma, who is the later representative 
of the Vedic Twashtri, the architect and handicraftsman of 
the gods, * The fashioner of all ornaments, the most eminent 
of artisans, who formed the celestial chariots of the deities, 
on whose craft men subsist, and whom, a great and immortal 
god, they continually worship.' One " tradition tells that 
Visvakarma was a Brahman and married the daughter of an 
Ahir, who in her previous birth had been a dancing-girl of the 
gods. By her he had nine sons, who became the ancestors 
of various artisan castes, such as the Lobar, Barhai, Sunar, 
and Kasera," 

The Lohars of the Uriya country in the Central Pro- 
vinces tell a similar story, according to which Kamar, the 
celestial architect, had twelve sons. The eldest son was 
accustomed to propitiate the family god with wine, and one 
day he drank some of the wine, thinking that it could not 
be sinful to do so as it was offered to the deity. But for this 
act his other brothers refused to live with him and left their 
home, adopting various professions ; but the eldest brother 
became a worker in iron and laid a curse upon the others 
that they should not be able to practise their calling except 
with the implements which he had made. The second 
brother thus became a woodcutter (Barhai), the third a 
painter (Maharana), the fourth learnt the science of vaccina- 
tion and medicine and became a vaccinator (Suthiar), the 
fifth a goldsmith, the sixth a brass-smith, the seventh a 
coppersmith, and the eighth a carpenter, while the ninth 
brother was weak in the head and married his eldest sister, 
on account of which fact his descendants are known as 
Ghantra.^ The Ghantras are an inferior class of blacksmiths, 

1 Tribes and Castes of the N.W. P. course with another. The Ghantra 

and Ondh, art. Lobar. Lohars are thus probably of bastard 

^ Dowson, Classical Dictionary, s.v. origin, like the groups known as half- 

^ In Uriya the term Ghantrabcla castes and others wliich are frequently 

means a person who has illicit inter- found. 

122 LOHAR part 

probably an offshoot from some of the forest tribes, who are 
looked down on by the others. It is said that even to the 
present day the Ghantra Lobars have no objection to eating 
the leavings of food of their wives, whom they regard as 
their eldest sisters. 
2. Social The above story is noticeable as indicating that the 

of the°'^ social position of the Lobar is somewhat below that of the 
Lohar. other artisan castes, or at least of those who work in metals. 
This fact has been recorded in other localities, and has been 
explained by some stigma arising from his occupation, as in 
the following passage : " His social position is low even for 
a menial, and he is classed as an impure caste, in so far 
that Jats and others of similar standing will have no social 
communion with him, though not as an outcast like the 
scavenger. His impurity, like that of the barber, washerman 
and dyer, springs solely from the nature of his employment ; 
perhaps because it is a dirty one, but more probably because 
black is a colour of evil omen. It is not improbable that 
the necessity under which he labours of using bellows made 
of cowhide may have something to do with his impurity." ^ 

Mr. Nesfield also says : " It is owing to the ubiquitous 
industry of the Lobar that the stone knives, arrow-heads and 
hatchets of the indigenous tribes of Upper India have been 
so entirely superseded by iron-ores. The memory of the 
stone age has not survived even in tradition. In con- 
sequence of the evil associations which Hinduism has 
attached to the colour of black, the caste of Lobar has not 
been able to raise itself to the same social level as the three 
metallurgic castes which follow." The following saying also 
indicates that the Lobar is of evil omen : 

Ar, Dhar, ChucJikdr. 

In tinon se bachdwe Kartdr. 

Here Ar means an iron goad and signifies the Lobar ; 
Dhdr represents the sound of the oil falling from the press 
and means a Teli or oilman ; CJiuchkdr is an imitation of 
the sound of clothes being beaten against a stone and 
denotes the Dhobi or washerman ; and the phrase thus runs, 
' My Friend, beware of the Lobar, Teli, and Dhobi, for they 

1 Punjab Census Report (i88l), para. 624. (Ibbetson.) 


are of evil oinen.' It is not quite clear why this disrepute 
should attach to the Lohar, because iron itself is lucky, 
though its colour, black, may be of bad omen. But the 
low status of the Lohar may partly arise from the fact of 
his being a village menial and a servant of the cultivators ; 
whereas the trades of the goldsmith, brass -smith and 
carpenter are of later origin than the blacksmith's, and are 
urban rather than rural industries ; and thus these artisans 
do not commonly occupy the position of village menials. 
Another important consideration is that the iron industry is 
associated with the primitive tribes, who furnished the whole 
supply of the metal prior to its importation from Europe : 
and it is hence probable that the Lohar caste was originally 
constituted from these and would thus naturally be looked 
down upon by the Hindus. In Bengal, where io.^ or no 
traces of the village community remain, the Lohar ranks as 
the equal of Koiris and Kurmis, and Brahmans will take 
water from his hands ; ^ and this somewhat favours the 
argument that his lower status elsewhere is not due to 
incidents of his occupation. 

The constitution of the Lohar caste is of a heterogeneous 3- Caste 
nature. In some localities Gonds who work as blacksmiths divisions. 
are considered to belong to the caste and are known as 
Gondi Lobars. But Hindus who work in Gond villages 
also sometimes bear this designation. Another subdivision 
returned consists of the Agarias, also an offshoot of the 
Gonds, who collect and smelt iron-ore in the Vindhyan and 
Satpura hills. The Panchals are a class of itinerant smiths 
in Berar. The Ghantras or inferior blacksmiths of the 
Uriya country have already been noticed. The Ghisaris 
are a similar low class of smiths in the southern Districts 
who do rough work only, but sometimes claim Rajput origin. 
Other subcastes are of the usual local or territorial type, as 
Mahulia, from Mahul in Berar ; Jhade or Jhadia, those living 
in the jungles ; Ojha, or those professing a Brahmanical 
origin; Maratha, Kanaujia, Mathuria, and so on. 

Infant-marriage is the custom of the caste, and the 4. Mar- 
ceremony is that prevalent among the agricultural castes of "j^^^^" 
the locality. The remarriage of widows is permitted, and customs. 

' Tribes atui Castes of Bengal, art. Lohar. 

124 LOHAR part 

they have the privilege of selecting their own husbands, or 
at least of refusing to accept any proposed suitor. A widow 
is always married from her father's house, and never from 
that of her deceased husband. The first husband's property 
is taken by his relatives, if there be any, and they also 
assume the custody of his children as soon as they are old 
enough to dispense with a mother's care. The dead are 
both buried and burnt, and in the eastern Districts some 
water and a tooth-stick are daily placed at a cross-road for 
the use of the departed spirit during the customary period 
of mourning, which extends to ten days. On the eleventh 
day the relatives go and bathe, and the chief mourner puts 
on a new loin-cloth. Some rice is taken and seven persons 
pass it from hand to hand. They then pound the rice, and 
making from it a figure to represent a human being, they 
place some grain in its mouth and say to it, ' Go and 
become incarnate in some human being,' and throw the 
image into the water. After this the impurity caused by 
the death is removed, and they go home and feast with 
their friends. In the evening they make cakes of rice, and 
place them seven times on the shoulder of each person who 
has carried the corpse to the cemetery or pyre, to remove 
the impurity contracted from touching it. It is also said 
that if this be not done the shouldei will feel the weight of 
the coffin for a period of six months. The caste endeavour 
to ascertain whether the spirit of the dead person returns to 
join in the funeral feast, and in what shape it will be born 
again. For this purpose rice-flour is spread on the floor of 
the cooking-room and covered with a brass plate. The 
women retire and sit in an adjoining room while the chief 
mourner with a few companions goes outside the village, 
and sprinkles some more rice-flour on the ground. They 
call to the deceased person by name, saying, ' Come, come,' 
and then wait patiently till some worm or insect crawls on 
to the floor. Some dough is then applied to this and it is 
carried home and let loose in the house. The flour under 
the brass plate is examined, and it is said that they usually 
see the footprints of a person or animal, indicating the 
corporeal entity in which the deceased soul has found a 
resting-place. During the period of mourning members of 



the bereaved family do not follow their ordinary business, 
nor eat flesh, sweets or other delicate food. They may not 
make offerings to their deities nor touch any persons outside 
the family, nor wear head-cloths or shoes. In the eastern 
Districts the principal deities of the Lohars are Dulha Deo 
and Somlai or Devi, the former being represented by a 
knife set in the ground inside the house, and the latter by 
the painting of a woman on the wall. Both deities are kept 
in the cooking-room, and here the head of the family offers 
to them rice soaked in milk, with sandal-paste, flowers, 
vermilion and lamp-black. He burns some melted butter 
in an earthen lamp and places incense upon it. If a man 
has been affected by the evil eye an exorcist will place 
some salt on his hand and burn it, muttering spells, and the 
evil influence is removed. They believe that a spell can be 
cast on a man by giving him to eat the bones of an owl, 
when he will become an idiot. 

In the rural area of the Province the Lobar is still a 5. Occupa- 
village menial, making and mending the iron implements of 
agriculture, such as the ploughshare, axe, sickle, goad and 
other articles. For doing this he is paid in Saugor a yearly 
contribution of twenty pounds of grain per plough of land ^ 
held by each cultivator, together with a handful of grain at 
sowing-time and a sheaf at harvest from both the autumn 
and spring crops. In Wardha he gets fifty pounds of grain 
per plough of four bullocks or forty acres. For making new 
implements the Lobar is sometimes paid separately and is 
always supplied with the iron and charcoal. The hand- 
smelting iron industry has practically died out in the 
Province and the imported metal is used for nearly all 
purposes. The village Lohars are usually very poor, their 
income seldom exceeding that of an unskilled labourer. In 
the towns, owing to the rapid extension of milling and 
factory industries, blacksmiths readily find employment and 
some of them earn very high wages. In the manufacture of 
cutlery, nails and other articles the capital is often found by 
a Bhatia or Bohra merchant, who acts as the capitalist and 
employs the Lohars as his workmen. The women help their 
husbands by blowing the bellows and dragging the hot iron 
' About 15 acres. 


from the furnace, while the men wield the hammer. The 
Panchals of Berar are described as a wandering caste of 
smiths, living in grass mat-huts and using as fuel the roots 
of thorn bushes, which they batter out of the ground with the 
back of a short-handled axe peculiar to themselves. They 
move from place to place with buffaloes, donkeys and ponies 
to carry their kit.^ Another class of wandering smiths, 
the Ghisaris, are described by Mr. Crooke as follows : 
" Occasional camps of these most interesting people are to 
be met with in the Districts of the Meerut Division. They 
wander about with small carts and pack-animals, and, being 
more expert than the ordinary village Lobar, their services 
are in demand for the making of tools for carpenters, weavers 
and other craftsmen. They are known in the Punjab as 
Gadiya or those who have carts {gddi, gdri). Sir D. Ibbetson" 
says that they come up from Rajputana and the North- 
western Provinces, but their real country is the Deccan. In 
the Punjab they travel about with their families and imple- 
ments in carts from village to village, doing the finer kinds 
of iron-work, which are beyond the capacity of the village 
artisan. In the Deccan ^ this class of wandering black- 
smiths are called Saiqalgar, or knife-grinders, or Ghisara, or 
grinders (Hindi, ghisdna, ' to rub '). They wander about 
grinding knives and tools." 

Lorha.* — A small caste of cultivators in the Hoshangabad 
and Nimar Districts, whose distinctive occupation is to grow 
san-heva^^ {Crotalaria junced) and to make sacking and 
gunny-bags from the fibre. A very strong prejudice against 
this crop exists among the Hindus, and those who grow it 
are usually cut off from their parent caste and become a 
separate community. Thus we have the castes known as 
Kumrawat, Patblna and Dangur in different parts of the 
Province, who are probably offshoots from the Kurmis and 
Kunbis, but now rank below them because they grow this 
crop ; and in the Kurmi caste itself a subcaste of Santora 
(hemp -picking) Kurmis has grown up. In Bilaspur the 

1 Berdr Census Report, \'i>'i\{yj\\.i'A). * This article is partly based on 

„ , . , ^ , , , papers by Mr. P. B. Telancr, Muiisiff 

'■ Piwidb Eilnio'jraphy. i^ara. 624. J, '' ■ ,.-, , i>, -.vt- ,, 

•^ .s y ^» 1 t Seoul- Malwa, and Mr. Wanian Kao 

^ Bombay Gazetteer^ xvi. 82. Mandloi, naib-tahslldar, Harda. 

II LOR HA 127 

Patharia Kurmis will grow J^^^w-hemp and ret it, but will not 
spin or weave the fibre ; while the Atharia Kurmis will not 
grow the crop, but will spin the fibre and make sacking. 
The Saugor Kewats grow this fibre, and here Brahmans and 
other high castes will not take water from Kewats, though 
in the eastern Districts they will do so. The Narsinghpur 
Mallahs, a branch of the Kewats, have also adopted the 
cultivation of j-crw-hemp as a regular profession. The basis 
of the prejudice against the Jcz//-hemp plant is not altogether 
clear. The Lorhas themselves say that they are looked 
down upon because they use wheat-starch {lapsi) for smooth- 
ing the fibre, and that their name is somehow derived from 
this fact. But the explanation does not seem satisfactory. 
Many of the country people appear to think that there is 
something uncanny about the plant because it grows so 
quickly, and they say that on one occasion a cultivator went 
out to sow hemp in the morning, and his wife was very late 
in bringing his dinner to the field. He grew hungry and 
angry, and at last the shoots of the hemp-seeds which he 
had sown in the morning began to appear above the ground. 
At this he was so enraged that when his wife finally came 
he said she had kept him waiting so long that the crop had 
come up in the meantime, and murdered her. Since then 
the Hindus have been forbidden to grow j'rt;/-hemp lest they 
should lose their tempers in the same manner. This story 
makes a somewhat excessive demand on the hearer's credulity. 
One probable cause of the taboo seems to be that the process 
of soaking and retting the stalks of the plant pollutes the 
water, and if carried on in a tank or in the pools of a stream 
might destroy the village supply of drinking-water. In 
former times it may have been thought that the desecration 
of their sacred element was an insult to the deities of rivers 
and streams, which would bring down retribution on the 
offender. It is also the case that the proper separation of 
the fibres requires a considerable degree of dexterity which 
can only be acquired by practice. Owing to the recent 
increase in the price of the fibre and the large profits which 
can now be obtained from hemp cultivation, the prejudice 
against it is gradually breaking down, and the Gonds, Korkus 
and lower Hindu castes have waived their religious scruples 


and are glad to turn an honest penny by sowing hemp either 
on their own account or for hire. Other partially tabooed 
crops are turmeric and dl or Indian madder {Morinda citri- 
folia), while onions and garlic are generally eschewed by 
Hindu cultivators. For growing turmeric and dl special 
subcastes have been formed, as the Alia Kunbis and the 
Hardia Malis and Kachhis (from Jialdi, turmeric), just as in 
the case of j'<a:;z-hemp. The objection to these two crops is 
believed to lie in the fact that the roots which yield the 
commercial product have to be boiled, and by this process a 
number of insects contained in them are destroyed. But the 
preparation of the hemp-fibre does not seem to involve any 
such sacrifice of insect life. The Lorhas appear to be a 
mixed group, with a certain amount of Rajput blood in them, 
perhaps an offshoot of the Kirars, with whose social customs 
their own are said to be identical. According to another 
account, they are a lower or illegitimate branch of the Lodha 
caste of cultivators, of whose name their own is said to be 
a corruption. The Nimar Gujars have a subcaste named 
Lorha, and the Lorhas of Hoshangabad may be connected 
with these. They live in the Seoni and Harda tahslls of 
Hoshangabad, the j-(^;2-hemp crop being a favourite one in 
villages adjoining the forests, because it is not subject to the 
depredations of wild animals. Cultivators are often glad to 
sublet their fields for the purpose of having a crop of hemp 
grown upon them, because the stalks are left for manure and 
fertilise the ground. String and sacking are also made from 
the hemp -fibre by vagrant and criminal castes like the 
Banjaras and Bhamtas, who formerly required the bags for 
carrying their goods and possessions about with them. 




General notice. 




Length of residence in the 



Central Proviiices. 




Legend of origin. 


Adoption of foreign religions. 



1 1. 



Exogainous groups and mar- 


Social rules. 

riage customs. 


Social subjection. 


Funeral rites. 


Their position improving. 

1 5 . Occupation. 

Mahap, Mehra, Dhed. — The impure caste of menials, i. General 
labourers and village watchmen of the Maratha country, "°"'^^- 
corresponding to the Chamars and Koris of northern India. 
They numbered nearly 1,200,000 persons in the combined 
Province in 191 i, and are most numerous in the Nagpur, 
Bhandara, Chanda and Wardha Districts of the Central 
Provinces, while considerable colonies are also found in 
Balaghat, Chhindwara and Betul. Their distribution thus 
follows largely that of the Marathi language and the castes 
speaking it. Berar contained 400,000, distributed over the 
four Districts. In the whole Province this caste is third in 
point of numerical strength. In India the Mahars number 
about three million persons, of whom a half belong to 
I^ombay. I am not aware of any accepted derivation for 
the word Mahar, but the balance of opinion seems to be 
that the native name of Bombay, Maharashtra, is derived 
from that of the caste, as suggested by Wilson. Another 
derivation which holds it to be a corruption of Maha 
Rastrakuta, and to be so called after the Rashtrakuta Rajput 
dynasty of the eighth and ninth centuries, seems less probable 
because countries are very seldom named after ruling 

VOL. IV 129 K 

1 30. MAHAR part 

dynasties.^ Whereas in support of Maharashtra as ' The 
country of the Mahars,' we have Gujarashtra or Gujarat, the 
country of the Gujars, and Saurashtra or Surat, the country 
of the Sauras. According to Platts' Dictionary, however, 
Maharashtra means ' the great country,' and this is what the 
Maratha Brahmans themselves say. Mehra appears to be 
a variant of the name current in the Hindustani Districts, 
while Dheda, or Dhada, is said to be a corruption of 
Dharadas or hillmen.'^ In the Punjab it is said to be a 
general term of contempt meaning ' Any low fellow.' ^ 

Wilson considers the Mahars to be an aboriginal or pre- 
Aryan tribe, and all that is known of the caste seems to 
point to the correctness of this hypothesis. In the Bombay 
Gazetteer the writer of the interesting Gujarat volume 
suggests that the Mahars are fallen Rajputs ; but there 
seems little to support this opinion except their appearance 
and countenance, which is of the Hindu rather than the 
Dravidian type. In Gujarat they have also some Rajpiit 
surnames, as Chauhan, Panwar, Rathor, Solanki and so on, 
but these may have been adopted by imitation or may 
indicate a mixture of Rajput blood. Again, the Mahars of 
Gujarat are the farmservants and serfs of the Kunbis. 
" Each family is closely connected with the house of some 
landholder ox pattiddr (sharer). For his master he brings 
in loads from the fields and cleans out the stable, receiving 
in return daily allowances of buttermilk and the carcases 
of any cattle that die. This connection seems to show 
traces of a form of slavery. Rich pattiddrs have always a 
certain number of Dheda families whom they speak of as 
ours {hamm-a), and when a man dies he distributes along 
with his lands a certain number of Dheda families to each 
of his sons. An old tradition among Dhedas points to some 
relation between the Kunbis and Dhedas. Two brothers, 
Leva and Deva, were the ancestors, the former of the 
Kunbis, the latter of the Dhedas." * Such a relation as this 

1 This derivation is also negatived '^ Bombay Gazetteer, Gujarat Hitidiis, 

by the fact that the name Mahuratta p. 338. 

was known in the third century B.C. ^ Ibbetson, Funjab Census Report 

or long before the Riistrakutas became (1881). 

prominent. * Bovibay Gazetteer, I.e. text and 

footnote by R. v. J. S. Taylor. 


in Hindu society would imply that many Mahar women 
held the position of concubines to their Kunbi masters, and 
would therefore account for the resemblance of the Mahar 
to Hindus rather than the forest tribes. But if this is to 
be regarded as evidence of Rajput descent, a similar claim 
would have to be allowed to many of the Chamars and 
sweepers. Others of the lowest castes also have Rajput 
sept names, as the Pardhis and Bhils ; but the fact can at 
most be taken, I venture to think, to indicate a connection 
of the ' Droit dc Seigneur ' type. On the other hand, the 
Mahars occupy the debased and impure position which was 
the lot of those non-Aryan tribes who became subject to 
the Hindus and lived in their villages ; they eat the flesh 
of dead cattle and this and other customs appear to point 
decisively to a non-Aryan origin. 

Several circumstances indicate that the Mahar is recog- 2. Length 
nised as the oldest resident of the plain country of Berar °^'''-'^': 

^ J dence in 

and Nagpur. In Berar he is a village servant and is the the Central 
referee on village boundaries and customs, a position imply- '^°^'"'^^^- 
ing that his knowledge of them is the most ancient. At 
the Holi festival the fire of the Mahars is kindled first and 
that of the Kunbis is set alight from it. The Kamdar 
Mahar, who acts as village watchman, also has the right of 
bringing the toran or rope of leaves which is placed on the 
marriage-shed of the Kunbis ; and for this he receives a 
present of three annas. In Bhandara the Telis, Lobars, 
Dhlmars and several other castes employ a Mahar Mohturia 
or wise man to fix the date of their weddings. And most 
curious of all, when the Pan war Rajputs of this tract cele- 
brate the festival of Narayan Deo, they call a Mahar to 
their house and make him the first partaker of the feast 
before beginning to eat themselves. Again in Berar ^ the 
Mahar officiates at the killing of the buffalo on Dasahra. 
On the day before the festival the chief Mahar of the village 
and his wife with their garments knotted together bring 
some earth from the jungle and fashioning two images set 
one on a clay elephant and the other on a clay bullock. 
The images are placed on a small platform outside the 
village site and worshipped ; a young he-buffalo is bathed 

1 Kitts' Berar Census Report (1881), p. 143. 



and brought before the images as though for the same 
object. The Patel wounds the buffalo in the nose with a 
sword and it is then marched through the village. In the 
evening it is killed by the head Mahar, buried in the 
customary spot, and any evil that might happen during the 
coming year is thus deprecated and, it is hoped, averted. 
The claim to take the leading part in this ceremony is the 
occasion of many a quarrel and an occasional affray or riot. 
Such customs tend to show that the Mahars were the 
earliest immigrants from Bombay into the Berar and Nagpur 
plain, excluding of course the Gonds and other tribes, who 
have practically been ousted from this tract. And if it is 
supposed that the Panwars came here in the tenth century, 
as seems not improbable,^ the Mahars, whom the Panwars 
recognise as older residents than themselves, must have been 
earlier still, and were probably numbered among the subjects 
of the old Hindu kingdoms of Bhandak and Nagardhan. 

3. Legend The Mahars say they are descended from Mahamuni, 
of origin. ^^Y\Q was a foundling picked up by the goddess Parvati on 

the banks of the Ganges. At this time beef had not become 
a forbidden food ; and when the divine cow, Tripad Gayatri, 
died, the gods determined to cook and eat her body and 
Mahamuni was set to watch the pot boiling. He was as 
inattentive as King Alfred, and a piece of flesh fell out of 
the pot. Not wishing to return the dirty piece to the pot 
Mahamuni ate it ; but the gods discovered the delinquency, 
and doomed him and his descendants to live on the flesh of 
dead cows.^ 

4. Sub- The caste have a number of subdivisions, generally of a 
local or territorial type, as Daharia, the residents of Dahar 
or the Jubbulpore country, Baonia (52) of Berar, Nemadya 
or from Nimar, Khandeshi from Khandesh, and so on ; the 
Katia group are probably derived from that caste, Katia 
meaning a spinner ; the Barkias are another group whose 
name is supposed to mean spinners of fine thread ; while 
the Lonarias are salt-makers. The highest division are the 
Somvansis or children of the moon ; these claim to have 
taken part with the Pandavas against the Kauravas in the 

* See article on Panwar Rajput. 
5 Perar Census Report (1881), p. 144. 



war of the Mahabharata, and subsequently to have settled 
in Maharashtra^ But the Somvansi Mahars consent to 
groom horses, which the Baone and Kosaria subcastes will 
not do. Baone and Somvansi Mahars will take food together, 
but will not intermarry. The Ladwan subcaste are supposed 
to be the offspring of kept women of the Somvansi Mahars ; 
and in Wardha the Dhfirmik group are also the descendants 
of illicit unions and their name is satirical, meaning ' virtuous.' 
As has been seen, the caste have a subdivision named Katia, 
which is the name of a separate Hindustani caste ; and 
other subcastes have names belonging to northern India, as 
the Mahobia, from Mahoba in the United Provinces, the 
Kosaria or those from Chhattlsgarh, and the Kanaujia from 
Kanauj. This may perhaps be taken to indicate that bodies 
of the Kori and Katia weaving castes of northern India 
have been amalgamated with the Mahars in Districts where 
they have come together along the Satpura Hills and 
Nerbudda Valley. 

The caste have also a large number of exogamous 5. Exo- 
groups, the names of which are usually derived from plants, froups\nd 
animals, and natural objects. A few may be given as marriage 
examples out of fifty-seven recorded in the Central Provinces, 
though this is far from representing the real total ; all the 
common animals have septs named after them, as the tiger, 
cobra, tortoise, peacock, jackal, lizard, elephant, lark, scorpion, 
calf, and so on ; while more curious names are — Darpan, 
a mirror ; Khanda Phari, sword and shield ; Undrimaria, a 
rat-killer ; Aglavi, an incendiary ; Andhare, a blind man ; 
Kutramaria, a dog-killer ; Kodu Dudh, sour milk ; Khobra- 
gade, cocoanut-kernel ; Bhajikhai, a vegetable eater, and so on. 

A man must not marry in his own sept, but may take 
a wife from his mother's or grandmother's. A sister's son 
may marry a brother's daughter, but not vice versa. A girl 
who is seduced before marriage by a man of her own caste 
or any higher one can be married as if she were a widow, 
but if she has a child she must first get some other family to 
take it off her hands. The custom of Lamjliana or serving 
for a wife is recognised, and the expectant bridegroom will 
live with his father-in-law and work for him for a period 
^ Kitts' Berdr Census Rc/ort, p. 144. 

134 MAHAR part 

varying from one to five years. The marriage ceremony 
follows the customary Hindustani or Maratha ritual ^ as the 
case may be. In Wardha the right foot of the bridegroom 
and the left one of the bride are placed together in a new 
basket, while they stand one on each side of the threshold. 
They throw five handfuls of coloured rice over each other, 
and each time, as he throws, the bridegroom presses his toe 
on the bride's foot ; at the end he catches the girl by the 
finger and the marriage is complete. In the Central Provinces 
the Mohturia or caste priest officiates at weddings, but 
in Berar, Mr. Kitts states,^ the caste employ the Brahman 
Joshi or village priest. But as he will not come to their 
house they hold the wedding on the day that one takes place 
among the higher castes, and when the priest gives the signal 
the dividing cloth (Antarpat) between the couple is with- 
drawn, and the garments of the bride and bridegroom are 
knotted, while the bystanders clap their hands and pelt the 
couple with coloured grain. As the priest frequently takes 
up his position on the roof of the house for a wedding it is 
easy for the Mahars to see him. In Mandla some of the 
lower class of Brahmans will officiate at the weddings of 
Mahars. In Chhindwara the Mahars seat the bride and 
bridegroom in the frame of a loom for the ceremony, and 
they worship the hide of a cow or bullock filled with water. 
They drink togethei; ceremoniously, a pot of liquor being 
placed on a folded cloth and all the guests sitting round 
it in a circle. An elder man then lays a new piece of 
cloth on the pot and worships it. He takes a cup of 
the liquor himself and hands round a cupful to every person 

In Mandla at a wedding the barber comes and cuts the 
bride's nails, and the cuttings are rolled up in dough and 
placed in a little earthen pot beside the marriage-post. The 
bridegroom's nails and hair are similarly cut in his own 
house and placed in another vessel. A month or two after 
the wedding the two little pots are taken out and thrown 
into the Nerbudda. A wedding costs the bridegroom's 
party about Rs. 40 or Rs. 50 and the bride's about Rs. 25. 

' Described in the articles on Kurmi and Kunbi. 
^ Loc. cit. 


They have no going-avvay ceremony, but the occasion of 
a girl's coming to maturity is known as Bolawan. She 
is kept apart for six clays and given new clothes, and the 
caste-people are invited to a meal. When a woman's 
husband dies the barber breaks her bangles, and her anklets 
are taken off and given to him as his perquisite. Her 
brother-in-law or other relative gives her a new white cloth, 
and she wears this at first, and afterwards white or coloured 
clothes at her pleasure. Her hair is not cut, and she may 
wear patelas or flat metal bangles on the forearm and 
armlets above the elbow, but not other ornaments. A 
widow is under no obligation to marry her first husband's 
younger brother ; when she marries a stranger he usually 
pays a sum of about Rs. 30 to her parents. When the 
price has been paid the couple exchange a ring and a bangle 
respectively in token of the agreement. When the woman 
is proceeding to her second husband's house, her old clothes, 
necklace and bangles are thrown into a river or stream and 
she is given new ones to wear. This is done to lay the 
first husband's spirit, which may be supposed to hang about 
the clothes she wore as his wife, and when they are thrown 
away or buried the exorcist mutters spells over them in 
order to lay the spirit. No music is allowed at the marriage 
of a widow except the crooked trumpet called singdra. A 
bachelor who marries a widow must first go through a mock 
ceremony with a cotton-plant, a sword or a ring. Divorce 
must be effected before the caste pancJidyat or committee, 
and if a divorced woman marries again, her first husband 
performs funeral and mourning ceremonies as if she were 
dead. In Gujarat the practice is much more lax and 
" divorce can be obtained almost to an indefinite extent. 
Before they finally settle down to wedded life most couples 
have more than once changed their partners." ^ But here 
also, before the change takes place, there must be a formal 
divorce recognised by the caste. 

The caste either burn or bury the dead and observe 6. Funeral 
mourning for three days,^ having their houses w^hitewashed "^^^' 
and their faces shaved. On the tenth day they give a feast 

^ Bombay Gazetteer, Gujarat Hindus, ^ In Berar for ten days- — Kitts' 

loc. cit. Berar Census Report, I.e. 



7. Child- 

8. Names. 

to the caste-fellows. On the Akshaya Tritia' and the 30th day 
of Kunwar (September) they offer rice and cakes to the crows 
in the names of their ancestors. In Berar Mr. Kitts writes:'"^ 
" If a Mahar's child has died, he will on the third day place 
bread on the grave ; if an infant, milk ; if an adult, on the 
tenth day, with five pice in one hand and five betel-leaves 
in the other, he goes into the river, dips himself five times 
and throws these things away ; he then places five lighted 
lamps on the tomb, and after these simple ceremonies gets 
himself shaved as though he were an orthodox Hindu." 

In Mandla the mother is secluded at childbirth in a 
separate house if one is available, and if not they fence in a 
part of the veranda for her use with bamboo screens. After 
the birth the mother must remain impure until the barber 
comes and colours her toe-nails and draws a line round her 
feet with red mahur powder. This is indispensable, and if 
the barber is not immediately available she must wait until 
his services can be obtained. When the navel-string drops 
it is buried in the place on which the mother sat while giving 
birth, and when this has been done the purification may be 
effected. The Dhobi is then called to wash the clothes of 
the household, and their earthen pots are thrown away. The 
head of the newborn child is shaved clean, as the birth-hair 
is considered to be impure, and the hair is wrapped up in 
dough and thrown into a river. 

A child is named on the seventh or twelfth day after its 
birth, the name being chosen by the Mohturia or caste head- 
man. The ordinary Hindu names of deities for men and 
sacred rivers or pious and faithful wives for women are 
employed ; instances of the latter being Ganga, Godavari, 
Jamuna, Slta, Laxmi and Radha. Opprobrious names are 
sometimes given to avert ill-luck, as Damdya (purchased for 
eight cowries), Kauria (a cowrie), Bhikaria (a beggar), Ghusia 
(from ghus, a mallet for stamping earth), Harchatt (refuse), 
Akali (born in famine-time), Langra (lame), Lula (having an 
arm useless) ; or the name of another low caste is given, as 
Bhangi (sweeper), Domari (Dom sweeper), Chamra (tanner), 
Basori (basket-maker). Not infrequently children are named 

' 3rd Baisakh (April) Sudi, commencement of agricultural year. 
'^ Bcrdr Census Report, I.e. 


after the month or day when they were born, as Pusau, 
born in Pus (December), Chaitii, born in Chait (March), 
Manglu (born on Tuesday), Buddhi (born on Wednesday), 
Sukka (born on Friday), Sanlchra (born on Saturday). One 
boy was called Mulua or 'Sold' {nwl-deiia). His mother 
had no other children, so sold him for one pice (farthing) to 
a Gond woman. After five or six months, as he did not get 
fat, his name was changed to Jhuma or 'lean,' probably as 
an additional means of averting ill-luck. Another boy was 
named Ghurka, from the noise he made when being suckled. 
A child born in the absence of its father is called Sonwa, or 
one born in an empty house. 

The great body of the caste worship the ordinary deities 9. Reii- 
Devi, Hanuman, Dulha Deo, and others, though of course ^'°"' 
they are not allowed to enter Hindu temples. They princi- 
pally observe the Holi and Dasahra festivals and the days 
of the new and full moon. On the festival of Nag-Panchmi 
they make an image of a snake with flour and sugar and eat 
it. At the sacred Ambala tank at Ramtek the Mahars have 
a special bathing-ghat set apart for them, and they may 
enter the citadel and go as far as the lowest step leading 
up to the temples ; here they worship the god and think 
that he accepts their offerings. They are thus permitted to 
traverse the outer enclosures of the citadel, which are also 
sacred. In Wardha the Mahars may not touch the shrines 
of ]\Iahadeo, but must stand before them with their hands 
joined. They may sometimes deposit offerings with their 
own hands on those of Bhlmsen, originally a Gond god, and 
Mata Devi, the goddess of smallpox. 

In Berar and Bombay the Mahars have some curious 10. Adop- 
forms of belief. " Of the confusion which obtains in [Q°"i°[^ 
the Mahiir theogony the names of six of their gods will religions, 
afford a striking example. While some Mahars worship 
Vithoba, the god of Pandharpur, others revere Varuna's 
twin sons, Meghoni and Deghoni, and his four messengers, 
Gabriel, Azrael, Michael and Anadin, all of whom they 
sa}^ hail from Pandharpur," ^ The names of archangels thus 
mixed up with Hindu deities may most probably have been 
obtained from the Muhammadans, as they include Azrael ; 

^ Ben'ir Census Report, I.e. 


but in Gujarat their religion appears to have been borrowed 
from Christianity. "The Karia Dhedas have some rather 
remarkable beliefs. In the Satya Yug the Dhedas say they 
were called Satyas ; in the Dvapar Yug they were called 
Meghas ; in the Treta Yug, Elias ; and in the Kali Yug, 
Dhedas. The name Elias came, they say, from a prophet 
Elia,and of him their religious men have vague stories ; some 
of them especially about a famine that lasted for three years 
and a half, easily fitting into the accounts of Elijah in the 
Jewish Scriptures. They have also prophecies of a high 
future in store for their tribe. The king or leader of the 
new era, Kuyam Rai by name, will marry a Dheda woman and 
will raise the caste to the position of Brahmans. They hold 
religious meetings or ochJiavas, and at these with great excite- 
ment sing songs full of hope of the good things in store for 
them. When a man wishes to hold an ochhava he invites 
the whole caste, and beginning about eight in the evening 
they often spend the night in singing. Except perhaps for 
a few sweetmeats there is no eating or drinking, and the 
excitement is altogether religious and musical. The singers 
are chiefly religious Dhedas or Bhagats, and the people join 
in a refrain ' Avore Kiiydni Rai Raja, Oh ! come Kuyam Rai, 
our king.' " ^ It seems that the attraction which outside faiths 
exercise on the Mahars is the hope held out of ameliorating 
the social degradation under which they labour, itself an out- 
come of the Hindu theory of caste. Hence they turn to Islam, 
or to what is possibly a degraded version of the Christian 
story, because these religions do not recognise caste, and hold 
out a promise to the Mahar of equality with his co-religionists, 
and in the case of Christianity of a recompense in the world 
to come for the sufferings which he has to endure in this one. 
Similarly, the Mahars are the warmest adherents of the 
Muhammadan saint Sheikh Farld, and flock to the fairs held 
in his honour at Girar in Wardha and Partapgarh in Bhandara, 
where he is supposed to have slain a couple of giants." 

' Bivnbav Gazellecr,Giijarrit Hindus. and had been annexed by the Muham- 
2 It was formerly suggested that the madan priests ; and the legend of the 
fact of the Mahars being the chief giant, who miglit represent the demon- 
worshippers at the shrines of Sheikh olatry of the aboriginal faith, being slain 
I''arid indicated that the places them- by the saint might be a parable, so to 
selves had been previously held sacred, say, expressing this process. But in 


In Berar ^ also they revere Muhammadan tombs. The 
remains of the Muhammadan fort and tank on Pimpardol 
hill in Jalgaon taluk are now one of the sacred places of 
the Mahars, though to the Muhammadans they have no 
religious associations. Even at present Mahars are inclined 
to adopt Islam, and a case was recently reported when a body 
of twenty of them set out to do so, but turned back on being 
told that they would not be admitted to the mosque.- A 
large proportion of the Mahars are also adherents of the 
Kablrpanthi sect, one of the main tenets of whose founder 
was the abolition of caste. And it is from the same point 
of view that Christianity appeals to them, enabling European 
missionaries to draw a large number of converts from this 
caste. But even the Hindu attitude towards the Mahars is 
not one of unmixed intolerance. Once in three or four 
years in the southern Districts, the Panwars, Mahars, Pankas 
and other castes celebrate the worship of Narayan Deo or 
Vishnu, the officiating priest being a Mahar. Members of 
all castes come to the Panwar's house at night for the 
ceremony, and a vessel of water is placed at the door in 
which they wash their feet and hands as they enter ; and 
when inside they are all considered to be equal, and they 
sit in a line and eat the same food, and bind wreaths 
of flowers round their heads. After the cock crows the 
equality of status is ended, and no one who goes out of the 
house can enter again. At present also many educated 
Brahmans recognise fully the social evils resulting from the 
degraded position of the Mahars, and are doing their best 
to remove the caste prejudices against them. 

They have various spells to cure a man possessed of an n. Super- 
evil spirit, or stung by a snake or scorpion, or likely to be in 
danger from tigers or wild bears ; and in the Morsi taluk of 
Berar it is stated that they so greatly fear the effect of an enemy 

view of the way in which the Mehtars highly improbable that Sheikh Farld, 

worship Musalman saints, it seems a well-known saint of northern India, 

quite likely that the Mahars might do can ever have been within several 

so for the same reason, that is, because hundred miles of either of the places 

Islam partly frees them from the utter with which they connect him. 

degradation imposed by Hinduism. , „ ,, ^ ,^ 

D ^u • V „ f .,.u A^ rrom Mr. C. Browns notes. 

Both views may have some truth. As 

regards the legends themselves, it is "^ C.P. Police Gazette. 


writing their name on a piece of paper and tying it to a 
sweeper's broom that the threat to do this can -be used with 
great effect by their creditors.^ To drive out the evil eye 
they make a small human image of powdered turmeric and 
throw it into boiled water, mentioning as they do so the 
names of any persons whom they suspect of having cast the 
evil eye upon them. Then the pot of water is taken out at 
midnight of a Wednesday or a Sunday and placed upside 
down on some cross-roads with a shoe over it, and the 
sufferer should be cured. Their belief about the sun and 
moon is that an old woman had two sons who were invited 
by the gods to dinner. Before they left she said to them 
that as they were going out there would be no one to cook, so 
they must remember to bring back something for her. The 
elder brother forgot what his mother had said and took 
nothing away with him ; but the younger remembered her 
and brought back something from the feast. So when they 
came back the old woman cursed the elder brother and said 
that as he had forgotten her he should be the sun and scorch 
and dry up all vegetation with his beams ; but the younger 
brother should be the moon and make the world cool and 
pleasant at night. The story is so puerile that it is only 
worth reproduction as a specimen of the level of a Mahar's 
intelligence. The belief in evil spirits appears to be on the 
decline, as a result of education and accumulated experience. 
Mr. C. Brown states that in Malkapur of Berar the Mahars say 
that there are no wandering spirits in the hills by night of 
such a nature that people need fear them. There are only 
tiny pari or fairies, small creatures in human form, but 
with the power of changing their appearance, who do no 
harm to any one. 
12. Social When an outsider is to be received into the community 

all the hair on his face is shaved, being wetted with the urine 
of a boy belonging to the group to which he seeks admission. 
Mahars will eat all kinds of food including the flesh of 
crocodiles and rats, but some of them abstain from beef. 
There is nothing peculiar in their dress except that the men 
wear a black woollen thread round their necks.^ The 
women may be recognised by their bold carriage, the 

' Kitts, I.e. 2 ihideni. 



absence of nose-rings and the large irregular dabs of ver- 
milion on the forehead. Mahar women do not, as a rule, 
wear the choli or breast-cloth. An unmarried girl does not 
put on vermilion nor draw her cloth over her head. Women 
must be tattooed with dots on the face, representations of 
scorpions, flowers and snakes on the arms and legs, and some 
dots to represent flies on the hands. It is the custom for a 
girl's father or mother or father-in-law to have her tattooed 
in one place on the hand or arm immediately on her marriage. 
Then when girls are sitting together they will show this 
mark and say, ' My mother or father-in-law had this done,' 
as the case may be. Afterwards if a woman so desires 
she gets herself tattooed on her other limbs. If an un- 
married girl or widow becomes with child by a man of the 
Mahar caste or any higher one she is subjected after delivery 
to a semblance of the purification by fire known as 
Agnikasht. She is taken to the bank of a river and there 
five stalks of juari are placed round her and burnt. Having 
fasted all day, at night she gives a feast to the caste-men and 
eats with them. If she offends with a man of lower caste 
she is finally expelled. Temporary exclusion from caste 
is imposed for taking food or drink from the hands of a 
Mang or Chamar or for being imprisoned in jail, or on a 
Mahar man if he lives with a woman of any higher caste ; 
the penalty being the shaving of a man's face or cutting off 
a lock of a woman's hair, together with a feast to the 
caste. In the last case it is said that the man is not re- 
admitted until he has put the woman away. If a man touches 
a dead dog, cat, pony or donkey, he has to be shaved and 
give a feast to the caste. And if a dog or cat dies in his 
house, or a litter of puppies or kittens is born, the house is 
considered to be defiled ; all the earthen pots must be thrown 
away, the whole house washed and cleaned and a caste feast 
given. The most solemn oath of a Mahar is by a cat or dog 
and in Yeotmal by a black dog.^ In Berar, the same paper 
states, the pig is the only animal regarded as unclean, and 
they must on no account touch it. This is probably owing 
to Muhammadan influence. The worst social sin which a 
Mahar can commit is to get vermin in a wound, which is 
1 Stated by Mr. C. Brown. 

142 MAHAR part 

known as Deogan or being smitten by God. While the 
affliction continues he is quite ostracised, no one going to his 
house or giving him food or water ; and when it is cured the 
Mahars of ten or twelve surrounding villages assemble and 
he must give a feast to the whole community. The reason 
for this calamity being looked upon with such peculiar 
abhorrence is obscure, but the feeling about it is general 
among Hindus. 
13. Social The social position of the Mahars is one of distressing 

subjection, (jegj-adation. Their touch is considered to defile and they live 
in a quarter by themselves outside the village. They usually 
have a separate well assigned to them from which to draw 
water, and if the village has only one well the Mahars and 
Hindus take water from different sides of it. Mahar boys 
were not until recently allowed to attend school with Hindu 
boys, and when they could not be refused admission to 
Government schools, they were allotted a small corner of 
the veranda and separately taught. When Dher boys were 
first received into the Chanda High School a mutiny took 
place and the school was boycotted for some time. The 
people say, ' Malidr sarva jdticlia bdhar,' or ' The Mahar is 
outside all castes.' Having a bad name, they are also 
given unwarrantably a bad character ; and ' Mahar Jdtichd' is 
a phrase used for a man with no moral or kindly feelings. 
But in theory at least, as conforming to Hinduism, they were 
supposed to be better than Muhammadans and other unbe- 
lievers, as shown by the following story from the Rasmala : ^ 
A Muhammadan sovereign asked his Hindu minister 
which was the lowest caste. The minister begged for leisure 
to consider his reply and, having obtained it, went to where 
the Dhedas lived and said to them : " You have given offence 
to the Padishah. It is his intention to deprive you of caste 
and make you Muhammadans." The Dhedas, in the greatest 
terror, pushed off in a body to the sovereign's palace, and 
standing at a respectful distance shouted at the top of their 
lungs : " If we've offended your majesty, punish us in some 
other way than that. Beat us, fine us, hang us if you like, 
but don't make us Muhammadans." The Padishah smiled, 
and turning to his minister who sat by him affecting to hear 

1 Vol. ii. p. 237. 

Hetnrose, Coilo., Derby. 



nothing, said, * So the lowest caste is that to which I belong.' 
But of course this cannot be said to represent the general 
view of the position of Muhammadans in Hindu eyes ; they, 
like the English, are regarded as distinguished foreigners, 
who, if they consented to be proselytised, would probably 
in time become Brahmans or at least Rajputs. A repartee 
of a Mahar to a Brahman abusing him is : The Brahman, 
^ Jdre Mahdrya' or ' Avaunt, ye Mahar' ; the Mahar, ' Kona 
diusJii neiti tmnchi goburya' or 'Some day I shall carry cow- 
dung cakes for you (at his funeral) ' ; as in the Maratha 
Districts the Mahar is commonly engaged for carrying fuel 
to the funeral pyre. Under native rule the Mahar was 
subjected to painful degradations. He might not spit on 
the ground lest a Hindu should be polluted by touching it 
with his foot, but had to hang an earthen pot round his neck 
to hold his spittle.^ He was made to drag a thorny branch 
with him to brush out his footsteps, and when a Brahman 
came by had to lie at a distance on his face lest his shadow 
might fall on the Brahman. In Gujarat" they were not 
allowed to tuck up the loin-cloth but had to trail it along 
the ground. Even quite recently in Bombay a Mahar was 
not allowed to talk loudly in the street while a well-to-do 
Brahman or his wife was dining in one of the houses. In 
the reign of Sidhraj, the great Solanki Raja of Gujarat, the 
Dheras were for a time at any rate freed from such dis- 
abilities by the sacrifice of one of their number,^ The great 
tank at Anhilvada Patan in Gujarat had been built by the 
Ods (navvies), but Sidhraj desired Jusma Odni, one of their 
wives, and sought to possess her. But the Ods fled with 
her and when he pursued her she plunged a dagger into 
her stomach, cursing Sidhraj and saying that his tank should 
never hold water. The Raja, returning to Anhilvada, found 
the tank dry, and asked his minister what should be done 
that water might remain in the tank. The Pardhan, after 
consulting the astrologers, said that if a man's life were 
sacrificed the curse might be removed. At that time the 
Dhers or outcastes were compelled to live at a distance from 

1 Bombay Gazetteer, \'o\. xii. p. 175. •' The following passage is taken from 

2 ^Q^v.K.T<^y\ov\n Bombay Gazetteer, Forbes, A'asma/a, i. p. 112. 
Gujarat Hindus, p. 341 f. 



14. Their 



15. Occu- 

the towns ; they wore untwisted cotton round their heads 
and a stag's horn as a mark hanging from their waists so 
that people might be able to avoid touching them. The 
Raja commanded that a Dher named Mayo should be 
beheaded in the tank that water might remain. Mayo died, 
singing the praises of Vishnu, and the water after that began 
to remain in the tank. At the time of his death Mayo had 
begged as a reward for his sacrifice that the Dhers should 
not in future be compelled to live at a distance from the 
towns nor wear a distinctive dress. The Raja assented and 
these privileges were afterwards permitted to the Dhers for 
the sake of Mayo. 

From the painful state of degradation described above 
the Mahars are gradually being rescued by the levelling and 
liberalising tendency of British rule, which must be to these 
depressed classes an untold blessing. With the right of 
acquiring property they have begun to assert themselves, 
and the extension of railways more especially has a great 
effect in abolishing caste distinctions. The Brahman who 
cannot afford a second-class fare must either not travel or 
take the risk of rubbing shoulders with a Mahar in a 
third-class carriage, and if he chooses to consider himself 
defiled will have to go hungry and thirsty until he gets the 
opportunity of bathing at his journey's end. The observance 
of the rules of impurity thus becomes so irksome that they 
are gradually falling into abeyance. 

The principal occupations of the Mahars are the weaving 
of coarse country cloth and general labour. They formerly 
spun their own yarn, and their fabrics were preferred by the 
cultivators for their durability. But practically all thread 
is now bought from the mills ; and the weaving industry is 
also in a depressed condition. Many Mahars have now 
taken to working in the mills, and earn better wages than 
they could at home. In Bombay a number of them are 
employed as police-constables.^ They are usually the village 
watchmen of the Maratha Districts, and in this capacity 
were remunerated by contributions of grain from the tenants, 
the hides and flesh of animals dying in the village, and plots 
of rent-free land. For these have now been substituted in 

1 Bombay Gazetteer, vol. xi. p. 73. 


the Central Provinces a cash payment fixed by Government. 
In Berar the corresponding ofiicial is known as the Kamdar 
Mahar. Mr. Kitts writes of him : ^ As fourth bahiteddr 
on the village establishment the Mahar holds a post of great 
importance to himself and convenience to the village. To 
the patel (headman), patwari and big men of the village he 
acts often as a personal servant and errand-runner ; for a 
smaller cultivator he will also at times carry a torch or act 
as escort. He had formerly to clean the horses of travellers, 
and was also obliged, if required, to carry their baggage.^ 
For the services which he thus renders as pdndheivdr the 
Mahar receives from the cultivators certain grain -dues. 
When the cut juari is lying in the field the Mahars go 
round and beg for a measure of the ears {bhik paydli). But 
the regular payment is made when the grain has been 
threshed. Another duty performed by the Mahar is the 
removal of the carcases of dead animals. The flesh is eaten 
and the skin retained as wage for the work. The patel and 
his relatives, however, usually claim to have the skins of 
their own animals returned ; and in some places where half 
the agriculturists of the village claim kinship with the patel 
the Mahars feel and resent the loss. A third duty is the 
opening of grain-pits, the noxious gas from which sometimes 
produces asphyxia. For this the Mahars receive the tainted 
grain. They also get the clothes from a corpse which is 
laid on the pyre, and the pieces of the burnt wood which 
remain when the body has been consumed. Recent observa- 
tions in the Nagpur country show that the position of the 
Mahars is improving. In Nagpur it is stated : ^ " Looked 
down upon as outcastes by the Hindus they are hampered 
by no sense of dignity or family prejudice. They are fond 
of drink, but are also hard workers. They turn their hands 
to anything and everything, but the great majority are 
agricultural labourers. At present the rural Mahar is in 
the background. If there is only one well in the village 
he may not use it, but has to get his water where he can. 
His sons are consigned to a corner in the village school, and 

' Bombay Gazetlecr, vol. xi. p- 73- ^ Ndgpw Setlletnent Report (1899), 

2 Grant Duff, History of the Mara- p. 29. 
thas, vol. i. p. 24. 




the schoolmaster, if not superior to caste prejudices, dis- 
courages their attendance. Nevertheless, Mahars will not 
remain for years downtrodden in this fashion, and are 
already pushing themselves up from this state of degrada- 
tion. In some places they have combined to dig wells, and 
in Nagpur have opened a school for members of their own 
community. Occasionally a Mahar is the most prosperous 
man in the village. Several of them are moneylenders in 
a small way, and a few are malguzars." Similarly in 
Bhandara Mr. Napier writes that a new class of small 
creditors has arisen from the Mahar caste. These people 
have given up drinking, and lead an abstemious life, wishing 
to raise themselves in social estimation. Twenty or more 
village kotwars were found to be carrying on moneylending 
transactions on a small scale, and in addition many of the 
Mahars in towns were exceedingly well off. 

I. Origin Mahli, Mahili.^ — A small caste of labourers, palanquin- 

°^*'^*^ bearers and workers in bamboo belonging to Chota Nagpur. 
In 191 I about 300 Mahlis were returned from the Feudatory 
States in this tract. They are divided into five subcastes : 
the Bansphor-Mahli, who make baskets and do all kinds of 
bamboo-work ; the Pahar-Mahli, basket-makers and culti- 
vators ; the Sulunkhi, cultivators and labourers ; the Tanti 
who carry litters ; and the Mahli-Munda, who belong to 
Lohardaga. Sir H. Risley states that a comparison of the 
totemistic sections of the Mahlis given in the Appendix to 
his Tribes and Castes with those of the Santals seems to 
warrant the conjecture that the main body of the caste are 
merely a branch of the Santals. Four or five septs, Hansda 
a wild goose, Hemron, Murmu the nilgai, Saren or Sarihin, 
and perhaps Tudu or Turu are common to the two tribes. 
The Mahlis are also closely connected with the Mundas. 
Seven septs of the main body of the Mahlis, Dumriar the 
wild fig, Gundli a kind of grain, Kerketa a bird, Mahukal 
a bird (long-tail), Tirki, Tunduar and Turu are also Munda 
septs ; and the three septs given of the Mahli-Munda sub- 
caste, Bhuktuar, Lang Chenre, and Sanga are all found 

' This article consists of extracts caste in the Tribes and Castes of 
from Sir H. Risley's account of the Bengal. 


among the Mundas ; while four septs, Hansda a wild goose, 
Induar a kind of eel, as well as Kerketa and Tirki, already 
mentioned, are common to the Mahlis and Turis, who are 
also recognised by Sir H. I'lisley as an offshoot of the 
Munda tribe with the same occupation as the Mahlis, of 
making baskets/ The Santrds and Mundas were no doubt 
originally one tribe, and it seems that the MahHs are derived 
from both of them, and have become a separate caste owing 
to their having settled in villages more or less of the open 
country, and worked as labourers, palanquin-bearers and 
bamboo-workers much in the same manner as the Turis. 
Probably they work for hire for Hindus, and hence their 
status may have fallen lower than that of the parent tribe, 
who remained in their own villages in the jungles. Colonel 
Dalton notes "' that the gipsy Berias use Manjhi and Mahali 
as titles, and it is possible that some of the Mahlis may 
have joined the Beria community. 

Only a very few points from Sir H. Risley's account of 2. Social 
the caste need be recorded here, and for further details the customs. 
reader may be referred to his article in the Tribes and Castes 
of Bengal. A bride-price of Rs. 5 is customary, but it varies 
according to the means of the parties. On the wedding 
day, before the usual procession starts to escort the bride- 
groom to the bride's house, he is formally married to a 
mango tree, while the bride goes through the same ceremony 
with a mahua. At the entrance to the bride's house the 
bridegroom, riding on the shoulders of some male relation 
and bearing on his head a vessel of water, is received by 
the bride's brother, equipped in similar fashion, and the 
two cavaliers sprinkle one another with water. At the 
wedding the bridegroom touches the bride's forehead five 
times with vermilion and presents her with an iron armlet. 
The remarriage of widows and divorce are permitted. 
When a man divorces his wife he gives her a rupee and 
takes away the iron armlet which was given her at her 
wedding. The Mahlis will admit members of any higher 
caste into the community. The candidate for admission 
must pay a small sum to the caste headman, and give a 

' See lists of exoganious septs of pendix to Tribes and Castes of Bengal. 
Mahli, Sandal, Munda and Puri in Ap- * Ethnolog}' oj Bengal, p. 326. 


feast to the MahHs of the neighbourhood, at which he must 
eat a little of the leavings of food left by each guest on his 
leaf-plate. After this humiliating rite he could not, of course, 
be taken back into his own caste, and is bound to remain 
a Mahli. 

list of paragraphs 

1. Origin of the iribe. 4. Exogamy and totemisni. 

2. The Mir zap ur Majhzuars de- 5. Marriage cusioins. 

rived from the Gonds. 6. Birth and funeral rites. 

3. Connection with the Kaiaars. 7. Relig^ious dance. 

Majhwar, Manjhi, Majhia.^ — ^A small mixed tribe who i. Origin 
have apparently originated from the Gonds, Mundas and ^^-^^^ 
Kawars. About 14,000 Majhwars were returned in 191 1 
from the Raigarh, Sarguja and Udaipur States. The word 
Manjhi means the headman of a tribal subdivision, being 
derived from the Sanskrit inadhya, or he who is in the centre."^ 
In Bengal Manjhi has the meaning of the steersman of a boat 
or a ferryman, and this may have been its original applica- 
tion, as the steersman might well be he who sat in the centre.^ 
When a tribal party makes an expedition by boat, the leader 
would naturally occupy the position of steersman, and hence 
it is easy to see how the term Manjhi came to be applied to 
the leader or head of the clan and to be retained as a title 
for general use. Sir H. Risley gives it as a title of the 
Kewats or fishermen and many other castes and tribes in 
Bengal. But it is also the name for a village headman 
among the Santals, and whether this meaning is derived 
from the prior signification of steersman or is of independent 
origin is uncertain. In Raigarh Mr. Hira Lai states that 
the Manjhis or Majhias are fishermen and are sometimes 
classed with the Kewats. They appear to be Kols who 

' This article is based on papers by his Tribes and Castes. 

Mr. Hira Lai and Surai Baksh Singh, o ^ , .. ht -u - „ t 

. . , „ . ,■' TT , • ' Crooke, art. Majhwar, para. i. 

Assistant Superintendent, Udaipur 

State, with references to Mr. Crooke's ^ Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. 

exhaustive article on the Majhwars in Manjhi. 




2. The 

from the 

have taken to fishing and, being looked down on by the 
other Kols on this account, took the name of Majhia or 
Manjhi, which they now derive from Machh, a fish. " The 
appearance of the Majhias whom I saw and examined was 
typically aboriginal and their language was a curious mixture 
of Mundari, Santal and Korwa, though they stoutly repudi- 
ated connection with any of these tribes. They could count 
only up to three in their own language, using the Santal 
words mit^ baria, pia. Most of their terms for parts of the 
body were derived from Mundari, but they also used some 
Santali and Korwa words. In their own language they 
called themselves Hor, which means a man, and is the tribal 
name of the Mundas." 

On the other hand the Majhwars of Mirzapur, of whom 
Mr. Crooke gives a detailed and interesting account, clearly 
appear to be derived from the Gonds. They have five sub- 
divisions, which they say are descended from the five sons 
of their first Gond ancestor. These are Poiya, Tekam, 
Marai, Chika and Oiku. Four of these names are those of 
Gond clans, and each of the five subtribes is further divided 
into a number of exogamous septs, of which a large pro- 
portion bear typical Gond names, as Markam, Netam, Tekam, 
Masham, Sindram and so on. The Majhwars of Mirzapur 
also,, like the Gonds, employ Patharis or Pardhans as their 
priests, and there can thus be no doubt that they are mainly 
derived from the Gonds, They would appear to have come 
to Mirzapur from Sarguja and the Vindhyan and Satpura 
hills, as they say that their ancestors ruled from the forts of 
Mandla, Garha in Jubbulpore, Sarangarh, Raigarh and other 
places in the Central Provinces.^ They worship a deified 
Ahir, whose legs were cut off in a fight with some Raja, 
since when he has become a troublesome ghost. " He now 
lives on the Ahlor hill in Sarguja, where his petrified body 
may still be seen, and the Manjhis go there to worship him. 
His wife lives on the Jhoba hill in Sarguja. Nobody but a 
Baiga dares to ascend the hill, and even the Raja of Sarguja 
when he visits the neighbourhood sacrifices a black goat. 
Manjhis believe that if these two deities are duly propitiated 
they can give anything they need." The story makes it 
^ Crooke, Tribes and Castes of Beui^al, art. Manjhi, para. 4. 


probable that the ancestors of these Manjhis dwelt in 
Sarguja. The Manjhis of Mlrzapur are not boatmen or 
fishermen and have no traditions of having ever been so. 
They are a backward tribe and practise shifting cultivation 
on burnt-out patches of forest. It is possible that they may 
have abandoned their former aquatic profession on leaving 
the neighbourhood of the rivers, or they may have simply 
adopted the name, especially since it has the meaning of a 
village headman and is used as a title by the Santals and 
other castes and tribes. Similarly the term Munda, which 
at first meant the headman of a Kol village, is now the 
common name for the Kol tribe in Chota Nagpur. 

Again the Manjhis appear to be connected with the 3- Con- 
Kawar tribe. Mr. Hira Lai states that in Raigarh they will "v^|^h"the 
take food with Kewats, Gonds, Kawars and Rawats or Ahirs, Kawars. 
but they will not eat rice and pulse, the most important and 
sacred food, with any outsiders except Kawars ; and this 
they explain by the statement that their ancestors and those 
of the Kawars were connected. In Mlrzapur the Kaurai 
Ahirs will take food and water from the Majhwars, and these 
AhIrs are not improbably derived from the Kawars.^ Here 
the Majhwars also hold an oath taken when touching a 
broadsword as most binding, and the Kawars of the Central 
Provinces worship a sword as one of their principal deities."'^ 
Not improbably the Manjhis may include some Kewats, as 
this caste also use Manjhi for a title ; and Manjhi is both 
a subcaste and title of the Khairwars. The general con- 
clusion from the above evidence appears to be that the caste 
is a very heterogeneous group whose most important con- 
stituents come from the Gond, Munda, Santal and Kawar 
tribes. Whether the original bond of connection among the 
various people who call themselves Manjhi was the common 
occupation of boating and fishing is a doubtful point. 

The Manjhis of Sarguja, like those of Raigarh, appear 4. Exo- 
to be of Munda and Santal rather than of Gond origin. fo""mism. 
They have no subdivisions, but a number of totemistic septs. 
Those of the Bhainsa or buffalo sept are split into the Lotan 
and Singhan subsepts, lotan meaning a place where buffaloes 

^ Crooke, Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Manjhi, para. 63. 
2 Ibidem, para. 54. 

152 MAJHWAR part 

wallow and singh a horn. The Lotan Bhainsa sept say- 
that their ancestor was born in a place where a buffalo had 
wallowed, and the Singhan Bhainsa that their ancestor was 
born while his mother was holding the horn of a buffalo. 
These septs consider the buffalo sacred and will not yoke it 
to a plough or cart, though they will drink its milk. They 
think that if one of them killed a buffalo their clan would 
become extinct. The Baghani Majhwars, named after the 
bdgJi or tiger, think that a tiger will not attack any member 
of their sept unless he has committed an offence entailing 
temporary excommunication from caste. Until this offence 
has been expiated his relationship with the tiger as head of 
his sept is in abeyance and the tiger will eat him as he 
would any other stranger. If a tiger meets a member of 
the sept who is free from sin, he will run away. When the 
Baghani sept hear that any Majhwar has killed a tiger they 
purify their houses by washing them with cowdung and 
water. Members of the Khoba or peg sept will not make 
a peg or drive one into the ground. Those of the Dumar ^ 
or fig-tree sept say that their first ancestor was born under 
this tree. They consider the tree to be sacred and never 
eat its fruit, and worship it once a year. Members of the 
sept named after the sJiiroti tree worship the tree every 
5. Mar- Marriage within the sept is prohibited and for three 

nage generations between persons related through females. 

customs. o J. o 

Marriage is adult, but matches are arranged by the parents 
of the parties. At betrothal the elders of the caste must 
be regaled with cheora or parched rice and liquor. A bride- 
price of Rs. 10 is paid, but a suitor who cannot afford this 
may do service to his father-in-law for one or two years in 
lieu of it. At the wedding the bridegroom puts a copper 
ring on the bride's finger and marks her forehead with 
vermilion. The couple walk seven times round the sacred 
post, and seven little heaps of rice and pieces of turmeric 
are arranged so that they may touch one of them with their 
big toes at each round. The bride's mother and seven other 
women place some rice in the skirts of their cloths and the 
bridegroom throws this over his shoulder. After this he 

' Fictis irlonierala. 

and funeral 

ous dance. 

II MAL 153 

picks up the rice and distributes it to all the women present, 
and the bride goes through the same ceremony. The rice 
is no doubt an emblem of fertility, and its presentation to 
the women may perhaps be expected to render them fertile. 

On the birth of a child the navel-string is buried in front 6. Birth 
of the house. When a man is at the point of death they 
place a little cooked rice and curds in his mouth so that he 
may not go hungry to the other world, in view of the fact that 
he has probably eaten very little during his illness. Some 
cotton and rice are also placed near the head of the corpse 
in the grave so that he may have food and clothing in the 
next world. Mourning is observed for five days, and at the 
end of this period the mourners should have their hair cut, 
but if they cannot get it done on this day, the rite may be 
performed on the same day in the following year. 

The tribe worship DCilha Ueo, the bridegroom god, and 7. Reiigi 
also make offerings to their ploughs at the time of eating 
the new rice and at the Holi and Dasahra festivals. They 
dance the karma dance in the months of Asarh and Kunwar 
or at the beginning and end of the rains. When the time 
has come the Gaontia headman or the Baiga priest fetches 
a branch of the karma tree from the forest and sets it up 
in his yard as a notice and invitation to the village. After 
sunset all the people, men, women and children, assemble 
and dance round the tree, to the accompaniment of a drum 
known as Mandar. The dancing continues all night, and in 
the morning the host plucks up the branch of the karma 
tree and consigns it to a stream, at the same time regaling 
the dancers with rice, pulse and a goat This dance is a 
religious rite in honour of Karam Raja, and is believed to 
keep sickness from the village and bring it prosperity. The 
tribe eat flesh, but abstain from beef and pork. Girls are 
tattooed on arrival at puberty with representations of the 
tnlsi or basil, four arrow-heads in the form of a cross, and 
the foot-ornament known as pairi. 

Mai, Male, Maler, Mai Paharia.^ — A tribe of the 
Rajmahal hills, who may be an isolated branch of the 

^ Based entirely on Colonel Dalton's and Sir II. Risley's in the Tribes and 
account in the Ethnology of Bengal, Castes of Bengal. 

154 MAL part 

Savars, In 191 i about 1700 Mais were returned from 
the Chota Nagpur Feudatory States recently transferred 
to the Central Provinces. The customs of the Mais 
resemble those of the other hill tribes of Chota Nagpur. 
Sir H. Risley states that the average stature is low, the 
complexion dark and the figure short and sturdy. The 
following particulars are reproduced from Colonel Dalton's 
account of the tribe : 

" The hill lads and lasses are represented as forming 
very romantic attachments, exhibiting the spectacle oi real 
lovers ' sighing like furnaces,' and the cockney expression 
of * keeping company ' is peculiarly applicable to their 
courtship. If separated only for an hour they are miserable, 
but there are apparently few obstacles to the enjoyment of 
each other's society, as they work together, go to market 
together, eat together, and sleep together ! But if it be 
found that they have overstepped the prescribed limits of 
billing and cooing, the elders declare them to be out of the 
pale, and the blood of animals must be shed at their expense 
to wash away the indiscretion and obtain their readmission 
into society. 

" On the day fixed for a marriage the bridegroom with 
his relations proceeds to the bride's father's house, where 
they are seated on cots and mats, and after a repast the 
bride's father takes his daughter's hand and places it in that 
of the bridegroom, and exhorts him to be loving and kind 
to the girl that he thus makes over to him. The groom 
then with the little finger of his right hand marks the girl 
on the forehead with vermilion, and then, linking the same 
finger with the little finger of her right hand, he leads her 
away to his own house. 

" The god of hunting is called Autga, and at the close 
of every successful expedition a thank-offering is made to 
him. This is the favourite pastime, and one of the chief 
occupations of the Malers, and they have their game laws, 
which are strictly enforced. If a man, losing an animal 
which he has killed or wounded, seeks for assistance to find 
it, those who aid are entitled to one-half of the animal when 
found. Another person accidentally coming on dead or 
wounded game and appropriating it, is subjected to a severe 

11 MAL 155 

fine. The Manjhi or headman of the village is entitled to a 
share of all game killed by any of his people. Any one 
who kills a hunting dog is fined twelve rupees. Certain parts 
of an animal are tabooed to females as food, and if they 
infringe this law Autga is offended and game becomes scarce. 
When the hunters are unsuccessful it is often assumed that 
this is the cause, and the augur never fails to point out 
the transgressing female, who must provide a propitiatory 
offering. The Malers use poisoned arrows, and when they 
kill game the flesh round the wound is cut off and thrown 
away as unfit for food. Cats are under the protection of the 
game laws, and a person found guilty of killing one is made 
to give a small quantity of salt to every child in the village. 

" I nowhere find any description of the dances and songs 
of the Paharias. Mr. Atkinson found the Malers extremely 
reticent on the subject, and with difficulty elicited that they 
had a dancing-place in every village, but it is only when 
under the inHuence of God Bacchus that they indulge in the 
amusement. All accounts agree in ascribing to the Paharias 
an immoderate devotion to strong drink, and Buchanan tells 
us that when they are dancing a person goes round with 
a pitcher of the home-brew and, without disarranging the 
performers, who are probably linked together by circling 
or entwining arms, pours into the mouth of each, male and 
female, a refreshing and invigorating draught. The beverage 
is the universal pacJnvai, that is, fermented grain. The grain, 
either maize, rice or janera {Holcns sorgJmiii), is boiled and 
spread out on a mat to cool. It is then mixed with a 
ferment of vegetables called takar, and kept in a large 
earthen vessel for some days ; warm water may at any time 
be mixed with it, and in a few hours it ferments and is ready 
for use." 

When the attention of English officers was first drawn 
to them in 1770 the Males of the Rajmahal hills were a 
tribe of predatory freebooters, raiding and terrorising the 
plain country fro;n the foot of the hills to the Ganges. It 
was Mr. Augustus Cleveland, Collector of Bhagalpur, who 
reduced them to order by entering into engagements with 
the chiefs for the prevention and punishment of offences 
among their own tribesmen, confirming them in their estates 

156 MALA part 

and jurisdiction, and enrolling a corps of Males, which became 
the Bhagalpur Hill Rangers, and was not disbanded till the 
Mutiny. Mr. Cleveland died at the age of 29, having suc- 
cessfully demonstrated the correct method of dealing with 
the wild forest tribes, and the Governor-General in Council 
erected a tomb and inscription to his memory, which was 
the original of that described by Mr. Kipling in The Tomb of 
his AiicestoT's, though the character of the first John Chinn in 
the story was copied from Outram.^ 

Mala. — A low Telugu caste of labourers and cotton- 
weavers. They numbered nearly 14,000 persons in the 
Central Provinces in 191 1, belonging mainly to the Chanda, 
Nagpur, Jubbulpore, and Yeotmal Districts, and the Bastar 
State. The Marathas commonly call them Telugu Dhers, 
but they themselves prefer to be known as ' Telangi Sadar 
Bhoi,' which sounds a more respectable designation. They 
are also known as Mannepuwar and Netkani. They are 
the Pariahs of the Telugu country, and are regarded as 
impure and degraded. They may be distinguished by their 
manner of tying the head-cloth more or less in a square 
shape, and by their loin-cloths, which are worn very loose 
and not knotted. Those who worship Narsinghsvvami, the 
man-lion incarnation of Vishnu, are called Namaddar, while 
the followers of Mahadeo are known as Lingadars. The 
former paint their foreheads with vertical lines of sandal- 
paste, and the latter with horizontal ones. The Malas were 
formerly zealous partisans of the right-handed sect in 
Madras, and the description of this curious system of faction 
given by the Abbe Dubois more than a century ago may be 
reproduced : " 

" Most castes belong either to the left-hand or right-hand 
faction. The former comprises the Vaishyas or trading 
classes, the Panchalas or artisan classes and some of the 
low Sudra castes. It also contains the lowest caste, viz. the 
Chaklas or leather-workers, who are looked upon as its chief 
support. To the right-hand faction belong most of the 
higher castes of Sudras. The Pariahs (Malas) are also its 

' See The KhCtndesh Bhil Corps, by ^ Hindu Manners, Czistovis mid 

Mr. A. II. A. Simcox, p. 62. Ceremonies, ed. 1897, pp. 25, 26. 

II MALA 157 

great support, as a proof of which they glory in the title of 
Valangai Maugnttar or Friends of the Right Hand. In the 
disputes and conflicts which so often take place between 
the two factions it is always the Pariahs who make the 
most disturbance and do the most damage. The Brahmans, 
Rajas and several classes of Sudras are content to remain 
neutral and take no part in these quarrels. The opposition 
between the two factions arises from certain exclusive 
privileges to which both lay claim. But as these alleged 
privileges are nowhere clearly defined and recognised, they 
result in confusion and uncertainty, and are with difficulty 
capable of settlement. When one faction trespasses on the 
so-called right of the other, tumults arise which spread 
gradually over large tracts of territory, afford opportunity 
for excesses of all kinds, and generally end in bloody 
conflicts. The Hindu, ordinarily so timid and gentle in 
all other circumstances of life, seems to change his nature 
completely on occasions like these. There is no danger 
that he will not brave in maintaining what he calls his rights, 
and rather than sacrifice a little of them he will expose 
himself without fear to the risk of losing his life. The 
rights and privileges for which the Hindus arc ready to 
fight such sanguinary battles appear highly ridiculous, 
especially to a European. Perhaps the sole cause of the 
contest is the right to wear slippers or to ride through the 
streets in a palanquin or on horseback during marriage 
festivals. Sometimes it is the privilege of being escorted 
on certain occasions by armed retainers, sometimes that of 
having a trumpet sounded in front of a procession, or of 
being accompanied by native musicians at public cere- 
monies." The writer of the Madras Census Report of 1871 
states : ^ "It is curious that the females of two of the 
inferior castes should take different sides to their husbands 
in these disputes. The wives of the agricultural labourers 
side with the left hand, while their husbands help in fighting 
the battles of the right, and the shoemakers' wives also take 
the side opposed to their husbands. During these festival 
disturbances, the ladies who hold political views opposed to 
those of their husbands deny to the latter all the privileges 

^ Page 130. 


of the connubial state." The same writer states that the 
right-hand castes claimed the prerogative of riding on horse- 
back in processions, of appearing with standards bearing 
certain devices, and of erecting twelve pillars to sustain their 
marriage booths ; while the left-hand castes might not have 
more than eleven pillars, nor use the same standards as the 
right. The quarrels arising out of these small differences of 
opinion were so frequent and serious in the seventeenth cen- 
tury that in the town of Madras it was found necessary to 
mark the respective boundaries of the right- and left-hand 
castes, and to forbid the right-hp.nd castes in their processions 
from occupying the streets of the left hand and vice versa. 
These disturbances have gradually tended to disappear under 
the influence of education and good government, and no 
instance of them is known to have occurred in the Central 
Provinces. The division appears to have originated among 
the members of the Sakta sect or the worshippers of Sakti 
as the female principle of life in nature. Dr. L. D. Barnett 
writes : ^ — " The followers of the sect are of two schools. The 
' Walkers in the Right Way ' {Daks kin dchdri) pay a service of 
devotion to the deity in both male and female aspects, and 
except in their more pronounced tendency to dwell upon the 
horrific aspects of the deity (as Kali, Durga, etc.), they differ 
little from ordinary Saivas and Vaishnavas. The ' Walkers 
in the Left Way ' ( Vdmdchdri), on the other hand, concentrate 
their thought upon the godhead in its sexually maternal aspect, 
and follow rites of senseless magic and — theoretically at least 
— promiscuous debauchery." As has been seen, the religious 
differences subsequently gave rise to political factions. 

^ Hinduism, in ' Religions Ancient and Modern ' Series, p. 26. 




1. General notice of the caste, 7. Wtdoiv-marnage, divorce and 

and its social position. polygamy. 

2. Caste legend. 8. Disposal of the dead. 

3. Flowers offered to the gods. 9. Religion. 

4. Custom of 7uearitig garlands. 10. Occupation. 

5 . Subcastes. 1 1 . Traits a?id characters. 

6. Marriage. 12. Other functions of the Mali. 

I 3. Physical appearance. 

Mali, Marar, Maral.^ — The functional caste of vegetable i. General 
and flower-rardeners. The terms Mali and Marar appear to """^"^ °^ 

^ ^ ^ the caste, 

be used indifferently for the same caste, the former being and its 
more common in the west of the Province and the latter in !°':':?!_ 
the eastern Satpura Districts and the Chhattlsgarh plain. 
In the Nerbudda valley and on the Vindhyan plateau the 
place of both Mali and Marar is taken by the Kachhi of 
Upper India." Marar appears to be a Marathi name, the 
original term, as pointed out by Mr. Hira Lai, being Malal, 
or one who grows garden-crops in a field ; but the caste is 
often called Mali in the Maratha country and Marar in the 
Hindi Districts. The word Mali is derived from the 
Sanskrit iiidla, a garland. In 191 i the Malis numbered 
nearly 360,000 persons in the present area of the Central 
Provinces, and 200,000 in Berar. A German writer remarks 
of the caste ^ that : " It cannot be considered to be a very 
ancient one. Generally speaking, it may be said that flowers 
have scarcely a place in the Veda. Wreaths of flowers, of 

^ This article is based principally on - C.P. Census Report (1891), paia. 

Mr. Low's description of the Marars 180. 

in the Balaghat District Gazetteer and 3 Schroder, Prehistoric Atitiquities, 

on a paper by Major Sutherland, 121, quoted in Crooke's Tribes and 

LM.S. Castes, art. Mali. 



course, are used as decorations, but the separate flowers and 
their beauty are not yet appreciated. That lesson was first 
learned later by the Hindus when surrounded by another 
flora. Amongst the Homeric Greeks, too, in spite of their 
extensive gardening and different flowers, not a trace of 
horticulture is yet to be found." It seems probable that the 
first Malis were not included among the regular cultivators 
of the village but were a lower group permitted to take up 
the small waste plots of land adjoining the inhabited area and 
fertilised by its drainage, and the sandy stretches in the beds 
of rivers, on which they were able to raise the flowers required 
for offerings and such vegetables as were known. They still 
hold a lower rank than the ordinary cultivator. Sir D. 
Ibbetson writes ^ of the gardening castes : " The group now 
to be discussed very generally hold an inferior position among 
the agricultural community and seldom if ever occupy the 
position of the dominant tribe in any considerable tract of 
country. The cultivation of vegetables is looked upon as 
degrading by the agricultural classes, why I know not, unless 
it be that night-soil is generally used for their fertilisation ; 
and a Rajput would say : ' What ! Do you take me for an 
Arain ? ' if anything was proposed which he considered 
derogatory." But since most Malis in the Central Provinces 
strenuously object to using night-soil as a manure the 
explanation that this practice has caused them to rank below 
the agricultural castes does not seem sufficient. And if the 
use of night-soil were the real circumstance which determined 
their social position, it seems certain that Brahmans would 
not take water from their hands as they do. Elsewhere Sir 
D. Ibbetson remarks : ^ " The Malis and Sainis, like all 
vegetable growers, occupy a very inferior position among the 
agricultural castes ; but of the two the Sainis are probably 
the higher, as they more often own land or even whole 
villages, and are less generally mere market-gardeners than 
are the Malis." Here is given what may perhaps be the true 
reason for the status of the Mali caste as a whole. Again 
Sir C. Elliot wrote in the Hoshangdbdd Settlement Report : 
" Garden crops are considered as a kind of fancy agriculture 
and the true cultivator, the Kisan, looks on them with 

1 J^unjab Census Report (iSSi), para. 483. - Ibidem, para. 484. 


contempt as little peddling matters ; what stirs his ambition 
is a fine large wheat-field eighty or a hundred acres in 
extent, as flat as a billiard-table and as black as a Gond." 
Similarly Mr. Low ^ states that in Balaghat the Panwars, 
the principal agricultural caste, look down on the Marars 
as growers of petty crops like sama and kutki. In Wardha 
the Dangris, a small caste of melon and vegetable growers, 
are an offshoot of the Kunbis ; and they will take food 
from the Kunbis, though these will not accept it from 
them, their social status being thus distinctly lower than that 
of the parent caste. Again the Kohlis of Bhandara, who grow 
sugarcane with irrigation, are probably derived from an 
aboriginal tribe, the Kols, and, though they possess a number 
of villages, rank lower than the regular cultivating castes. 
It is also worth noting that they do not admit tenant-right 
in their villages among their own caste, and allot the sugar- 
cane plots among the cultivators at pleasure.^ In Nimar 
the Malis rank below the Kunbis and Gujars, the good agri- 
cultural castes, and it is said that they grow the crops which 
the cultivators proper do not care to grow. The Kachhis, 
the gardening caste of the northern Districts, have a very 
low status, markedly inferior to that of the Lodhis and Kurmis 
and little if any better than the menial Dhimars. Similarly, as 
will be seen later, the Alarars themselves have customs point- 
ing clearly to a non-Aryan origin. The Bhoyars of Betul, 
who grow sugarcane, are probably of mixed origin from 
Rajput fathers and mothers of the indigenous tribes ; they 
eat fowls and are much addicted to liquor and rank below the 
cultivating castes. The explanation seems to be that the 
gardening castes are not considered as landholders, and have 
not therefore the position which attaches to the holding 
of land among all early agricultural peoples, and which in 
India consisted in the status of a constituent member of the 
village community. So far as ceremonial purity goes there is 
no difference between the Malis and the cultivating castes, as 
Ikahmans will take water from both. It may be surmised 
that this privilege has been given to the Malis because they 
grow the flowers required for offerings to the gods, and 

^ Balaghat District Gazetteer, para. - Mr. '^tv^xcx'?, Bha7idar a Settlement 

59. Report, quoted in article on Kohli. 



sometimes officiate as village priests and temple servants ; 
and their occupation, though not on a level with regular 
agriculture, is still respectable. But the fact that Brahmans 
will take water from them does not place the Malis on an 
equality with the cultivating castes, any more than it does the 
Nais (barbers) and Dhimars (watermen), the contemned 
menial servants of the cultivators, from whom Brahmans 
will also take water from motives of convenience. 
2. Caste The Malis have a Brahmanical legend of the usual type 

legend. indicating that their hereditary calling was conferred and 
ratified by divine authority/ This is to the effect that the 
first Mali was a garland-maker attached to the household of 
Raja Kansa of Mathura. One day he met with Krishna, 
■ and, on being asked by him for a chaplet of flowers, at 
once gave it. On being told to fasten it with string, he, 
for want of any other, took off his sacred thread and tied 
it, on which Krishna most ungenerously rebuked him for 
his simplicity in parting with his patia, and announced 
that for the future his caste would be ranked among the 

The above story, combined with the derivation of Mali 
from 7ndla, a garland, makes it a plausible hypothesis that the 
calling of the first Malis was to grow flowers for the adorn- 
ment of the gods, and especially for making the garlands 
with which their images were and still are decorated. Thus 
the Malis were intimately connected with the gods and 
naturally became priests of the village temples, in which 
capacity they are often employed. Mr. Nesfield remarks of 
the Mali : ^ " To Hindus of all ranks, including even the 
Brahmans, he acts as a priest of Mahadeo in places where 
no Gosain is to be found, and lays the flower offerings on 
the lingam by which the deity is symbolised. As the Mali 
is believed to have some influence with the god to whose 
temple he is attached, none objects to his appropriating the 
fee which is nominally presented to the god himself In the 
worship of those village godlings whom the Brahmans disdain 
to recognise and whom the Gosain is not permitted to honour 
the Mali is sometimes employed to present the offering. He 

' Tribes and Casks of Bengal, art. ^ Brief View of the Caste System, 

Mali. p. 15. 


is thus the recognised hereditary priest of the lower and 
more ignorant classes of the population." In the Central 
Provinces Malis are commonly employed in the temples of 
Devi because goats are offered to the goddess and hence the 
worship cannot be conducted by Brahmans. They also work 
as servants in Jain temples under the priest. They sweep 
the temple, clean the utensils, and do other menial business. 
This service, however, does not affect their religion and they 
continue to be Hindus. 

His services in providing flowers for the gods would be 
remunerated by contributions of grain from the cultivators, the 
acceptance of which would place the Mali below them in the 
rank of a village menial, though higher than most of the 
class owing to the purity of his occupation. His status was 
probably much the same as that of the Guraos or village 
priests of Mahadeo in the Maratha country. And though he 
has now become a cultivator, his position has not improved 
to the level of other cultivating castes for the reasons 
already given. It was probably the necessity of regularly 
watering his plants in order to obtain a longer and more 
constant supply of blooms which first taught the. Mali the 
uses of irrigation. 

Flowers are par excellence suited for the offerings and 3. Flowers 
adornment of the gods, and many Hindus have rose or other offered to 
plants m their houses whose flowers are destmed to the house- 
hold god. There is little reason to doubt that this was the 
purpose for which cultivated flowers were first grown. The 
marigold, lotus and champak are favourite religious flowers, 
while the tulsi or basil is itself worshipped as the consort 
of Vishnu ; in this case, however, the scent is perhaps 
the more valued feature. In many Hindu households all 
flowers brought into the house are offered to the household 
god before being put to any other use. A Brahman school- 
boy to whom I had given some flowers to copy in drawing 
said that his mother had offered them to the god Krishna 
before he used them. When faded or done with they should 
be consigned to the sacred element, water, in any stream or 
river. The statues of the gods are adorned with sculptured 
garlands or hold them in their hands. A similar state of 
things prevailed in classical antiquity : 


Who are these coming to the sacrifice ? 

To what green altar, O mysterious priest, 
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies. 

And all her silken flanks with garlands drest ? 


Fairer than these, though temple thou hast none, 

Nor altar decked with flowers. 
Nor virgin choir to make delicious moan 
Upon the midnight hours. 

M. Fustel de Coulanges describes the custom of wearing 
crowns or garlands of flowers in ancient Rome and Greece 
as follows : " It is clear that the communal feasts were 
religious ceremonies. Each guest had a crown on the head ; 
it was an ancient custom to crown oneself with leaves or 
flowers for any solemn religious act." " The more a man is 
adorned with flowers," they said, " the more pleasing he is to 
the gods ; but they turn away from him who wears no crown 
at his sacrifice." And again, ' A crown is the auspicious 
herald which announces a prayer to the gods.' ^ 

Among the Persians the flowers themselves are wor- 
shipped : ^ " When a pure Iranian sauntered through (the 
Victoria Gardens in Bombay) ... he would stand awhile 
and meditate over every flower in his path, and always as in 
a vision ; and when at last the vision was fulfilled, and the 
ideal flower found, he would spread his mat or carpet before 
it, and sit before it to the going down of the sun, when he 
would arise and pray before it, and then refold his mat or 
carpet and go home ; and the next night, and night after 
night, until that bright particular flower faded away, he 
would return to it, bringing his friends with him in ever- 
increasing numbers, and sit and sing and play the guitar or 
lute before it — and anon they all would arise together and 
pray before it ; and after prayers, still sit on, sipping sherbet 
and talking the most hilarious and shocking scandal, late 
into the moonlight." 
4. Custom From the custom of placing garlands on the gods as a 

of wearing mark of houour has no doubt arisen that of garlanding 
guests. This is not confined to India but obtained in 

1 La CM antique, 'z\'?,\. Q.(\., p. 181. Sir G. Birdwood (Society of Arts, 
'^ The Antiquity of Oriental Carpets, 6th November 1908). 


Rome and probably in other countries. The word ' chaplet ' ^ 
originally meant a garland or wreath to be worn on the 
head ; and a garland of leaves with four flowers at equal 
distances. Dryden says, ' With chaplcts green upon their 
foreheads placed.' The word vidla originally meant a garland, 
and subsequently a rosary or string of beads. From this it 
seems a legitimate deduction that rosaries or strings of beads 
of a sacred wood were substituted for flower-garlands as orna- 
ments for the gods in view of their more permanent nature. 
Having been thus sanctified they may have come to be 
worn as a mark of holiness by saints or priests in imitation 
of the divine images, this being a common or universal fashion 
of Hindu ascetics. Subsequently they were found to serve as a 
useful means of counting the continuous repetition of prayers, 
whence arose the phrase * telling one's beads.' Like the Sans- 
krit iiidlay the English word rosary at first meant a garland of 
roses and subsequently a string of beads, probably made from 
rose-wood, on which prayers were counted. From this it may 
perhaps be concluded that the images of the deities were 
decorated with garlands of roses in Europe, and the develop- 
ment of the rosary was the same as the Indian mala. If 
the rose was a sacred flower we can more easily understand 
its importance as a badge in the Wars of the Roses. 

The caste has numerous endogamous groups, varying in 5. Sub- 
dififerent localities. The Phiilmalis,who derive their name from '^^^^^^• 
their occupation of growing and selling flowers {phill), usually 
rank as the highest. The Ghase Malis are the only subcaste 
which will grow and prepare turmeric in Wardha; but they will 
not sell milk or curds, an occupation to which the Phulmalis, 
though the highest subcaste, have no objection. In Chanda 
the Kosaria Malis, who take their name from Kosala, the 
classical designation of the Chhattisgarh country, are the sole 
growers of turmeric, while in Berar the Halde subcaste, 
named after the plant, occupy the same position. The Kosaria 
or Kosre subcaste abstain from liquor, and their women wear 
glass bangles only on one hand and silver ones on the other. 
The objection entertained to the cultivation of turmeric by 
Hindus generally is said to be based on the fact that when 
the roots are boiled numbers of small insects are necessarily 

' Tlie derivations of chcxplct and rosary are taken from Ogilv}''s Dictionary. 


destroyed ; but the other Malis relate that one of the ancestors 
of the caste had a calf called Hardulia, and one day he said 
to his daughter, Haldi pakd, or ' Cook turmeric' But the 
daughter thought that he said ' cook Hardulia,' so she killed 
and roasted the calf, and in consequence of this her father was 
expelled from the caste, and his descendants are the Ghase or 
Halde subcaste. Ever since this happened the shape of a 
calf may be seen in the flower of turmeric. This legend has, 
however, no real value and the meaning of the superstition 
attaching to the plant is obscure. Though the growing of 
turmeric is tabooed yet it is a sacred plant, and no Hindu 
girl, at least in the Central Provinces, can be married without 
having turmeric powder rubbed on her body. Mr. Gordon 
remarks in Indian Folk-Tales: "I was once speaking to a 
Hindu gardener of the possibility of turmeric and garlic 
being stolen from his garden. These two vegetables are 
never stolen,' he replied, ' for we Hindus believe that he 
who steals turmeric and garlic will appear with six fingers in 
the next birth, and this deformity is always considered the 
birth - mark of a thief.' " The Jire Malis are so named 
because they were formerly the only subcaste who would 
grow cumin {j'ira), but this distinction no longer exists as 
other Malis, except perhaps the Phulmalis, now grow it. 
Other subcastes have territorial names, as Baone from 
Berar, Jaipuria, Kanaujia, and so on. The caste have also 
exogamous septs or bargas, with designations taken from 
villages, titles or nicknames or inanimate objects. 
6. Mar- Marriage is forbidden between members of the same sept 

and between first and second cousins. Girls are generally 
betrothed in childhood and should be married before maturity. 
In the Uriya country if no suitable husband can be found for 
a girl she is sometimes made to go through the marriage 
ceremony with a peg of mahuawood driven into the ground and 
covered over with a cloth. She is then tied to a tree in the 
forest and any member of the caste may go and release her, 
when she becomes his wife. The Marars of Balaghat and 
Bhandara have the lamjJmna form of marriage, in which the 
prospective husband serves for his wife ; this is a Dravidian 
custom and shows their connection with the forest tribes. The 
marriage ceremony follows the standard form prevalent in 




the locality. In Betul the couple go seven times round a 
slab on which a stone roller is placed, with their clothes 
knotted together and holding in their hands a lighted lamp. 
The slab and roller may be the implements used in powdering 
turmeric. " Among the Marars of Balaghat ^ the maternal 
uncle of the bridegroom goes to the village of the bride and 
brings back with him the bridal party. The bride's party do 
not at once cross the boundary of the bridegroom's village, 
but will stay outside it for a few hours. Word is sent and 
the bridegroom's party will bring out cooked food, which they 
eat with the bride's party. This done, they go to the house 
of the bridegroom and the bride forthwith walks five times 
round a pounding-stone. Next day turmeric is applied to the 
couple, and the caste people are given a feast. The essential 
portion of the ceremony consists in the rubbing of vermilion 
on the foreheads of the couple under the cover of a cloth. 
The caste permit the practice of i-alla-palla or exchanging 
sisters in marriage. They are said to have a custom at 
weddings known as kondia, according to which a young man 
of the bridegroom's party, called the Sand or bull, is shut up 
in a house at night with all the women of the bride's party ; 
he is at liberty to seize and have intercourse with any of 
them he can catch, while they are allowed to beat him as 
much as they like. It is said that he seldom has much cause 
to congratulate himself" But the caste have now become 
ashamed of this custom and it is being abandoned. In 
Chhattlsgarh the Marars, like other castes, have the forms of 
marriage known as the Badi Shddi and Chhoti Shddi or great 
and small weddings. The former is an elaborate form of 
marriage, taking place at the house of the bride. Those who 
cannot afford the expense of this have a ' Small Wedding ' 
at the house of the bridegroom, at which the rites are 
curtailed and the expenditure considerably reduced. 

Widow - marriage is permitted. The widower, accom- 7. widow- 
panied by his relatives and a horn-blower, goes to the house IJI^Q^ce^^' 
of the widow, and here a space is plastered with cowdung and and poiy- 
the couple sit on two wooden boards while their clothes are ^^™^' 
knotted together. In Balaghat- the bridegroom and bride 

^ Balaghat District Gazetteer (C. E. Low), para. 59. 
^ Ibidem, loc. cit. 


bathe in a tank and on emerging the widow throws away her 
old cloth and puts on a new one. After this they walk five 
times round a spear planted in the ground. Divorce is 
permitted and can be effected by mutual consent of the 
parties. Like other castes practising intensive cultivation 
the Malis marry several wives when they can afford it, in 
order to obtain the benefit of their labour in the vegetable 
garden ; a wife being more industrious and honest than a 
hired labourer. But this practice results in large families 
and household dissensions, leading to excessive subdivision 
of property, and wealthy members of the caste are rare. 
The standard of sexual morality is low, and if an unmarried 
girl goes wrong her family conceal the fact and sometimes 
try to procure an abortion. If these efforts are unsuccessful 
a feast must be given to the caste and a lock of the woman's 
hair is cut off by way of punishment. A young hard-working 
wife is never divorced, however bad her character may be, 
but an old woman is sometimes abandoned for very little 

8. Disposal The dead may be either buried or burnt ; in the former 
dead^ case the corpse is laid with the feet to the north. Mourning 

is observed only for three days and propitiatory offerings are 
made to the spirits of the dead. If a man is killed by 
a tiger his family make a wooden image of a tiger and 
worship it. 

9. Reii- Devi is the principal deity of the Malis. Weddings are 
^'°°' celebrated before her temple and large numbers of goats 

are sacrificed to the favourite goddess at her festival in the 
month of Magh (January). Many of the Marars of Balaghat 
are Kablrpanthis and wear the necklace of that sect ; but 
they appear none the less to intermarry freely with their 
Hindu caste-fellows.^ After the birth of a child it is stated 
that all the members of the sept to which the parents belong 
remain impure for five days, and no one will take food or 
water from them. 

10. Occu- The Mali combines the callings of a gardener and 
pation. nurseryman. " In laying out a flower-garden and in arrang- 
ing beds," Mr. Sherring remarks," "the Mali is exceedingly 

^ Balaghat District Gazetteer, para. 59. 
'^ Hindu Castes, vol. i. p. 327. 


expert. His powers in this respect are hardly surpassed by 
gardeners in England. He lacks of course the excellent 
botanical knowledge of many English gardeners, and also 
the peculiar skill displayed by them in grafting and crossing, 
and in watching the habits of plants. Yet in manipulative 
labour, especially when superintended by a European, he is, 
though much slower in execution, almost if not quite equal 
to gardeners at home." They are excellent and very 
laborious cultivators, and show much skill in intensive 
cultivation and the use of water. Malis are the best sugar- 
cane growers of Betul and their holdings usually pay a higher 
rental than those of other castes. " In Balaghat," Mr. Low 
remarks,^ " they are great growers of tobacco and sugarcane, 
favouring the alluvial land on the banks of rivers. They 
mostly irrigate by a dhekli or dipping lift, from temporary 
wells or from water-holes in rivers. The pole of the lift has 
a weight at one end and a kerosene tin suspended from the 
other. Another form of lift is a hollowed tree trunk worked 
on a fulcrum, but this only raises the water a foot or two. 
The Marars do general cultivation as well ; but as a class are 
not considered skilled agriculturists. The proverb about 
their cultivating status is : 

Mardr, Mali jote tali 
Tali ina7-gayi, dhare ktidali, 

or, * The Marar yokes cows ; if the cow dies he takes to the 
pickaxe ' ; implying that he is not usually rich enough to 
keep bullocks." The saying has also a derogatory sense, as 
no good Hindu would yoke a cow to the plough. Another 
form of lift used by the Kachhis is the Persian wheel. In 
this two wheels arc fixed above the well or tank and long 
looped ropes pass over them and down into the well, between 
which a line of earthen pots is secured. As the ropes move 
on the wheels the pots descend into the well, are filled with 
water, brought up, and just after they reach the apex of the 
wheel and turn to descend again, the water pours out to a 
hollow open tree-trunk, from which a channel conveys it to 
the field. The wheel which turns the rope is worked by a 
man pedalling, but he cannot do more than about three hours 

' Bdlaphdt District Gazetteer, loc. cil. 



a day. The common lift for gardens is the mot or bag made 
of the hide of a bullock or buffalo. This is usually worked 
by a pair of bullocks moving forwards down a slope to raise 
the mot from the well and backwards up the slope to let it 
down when empty. 

11. Traits " It is ncccssary," the account continues, " for the Marar's 
business for one member at least of his family to go to market 
with his vegetables ; and the Mararin is a noteworthy feature 

in all bazars, sitting with her basket or garment spread on the 
ground, full of white onions and garlic, purple brinjals and 
scarlet chillies, with a few handfuls of strongly flavoured green 
stuff. Whether from the publicity which it entails on their 
women or from whatever cause, the Mararin does not bear 
the best of reputations for chastity ; and is usually con- 
sidered rather a bold, coarse creature. The distinctive 
feature of her attire is the way in which she ties up her 
body-cloth so as to leave a tail sticking up behind ; whence 
the proverb shouted after her by rude little boys : ' Jump 
from roof to roof, Monkey. Pull the tail of the Mararin, 
Monkey.' She also rejoices in a very large tikli or spangle 
on her forehead and in a peculiar kind of angia (waistcoat). 
The caste are usually considered rather clannish and morose. 
They live in communities by themselves, and nearly always 
inhabit a separate hamlet of the village. The Marars of a 
certain place are said to have boycotted a village carpenter 
who lost an axe belonging to one of their number, so that 
he had to leave the neighbourhood for lack of custom." 

12. Other Many Malis live in the towns and keep vegetable- or 
the'^M™f° flower-gardens just outside. They sell flowers, and the 

Mali girls are very good flower-sellers, Major Sutherland 
says, being famous for their coquetry. A saying about 
them is : " The crow among birds, the jackal among beasts, 
the barber among men and the Malin among women ; all 
these are much too clever." The Mali also prepares the 
manr or marriage-crown, made from the leaves of the date- 
palm, both for the bride and bridegroom at marriages. In 
return he gets a present of a rupee, a piece of cloth and a 
day's food. He also makes the garlands which are used 
for presentation at entertainments, and supplies the daily 
bunches of flowers which are required as offerings for 


Mahadeo. The Mali keeps garlands for sale in the bazar, 
and when a well-to-do person passes he goes up and puts 
a garland round his neck and expects a present of" a pice 
or two. 

" Physically," Mr. Low states, " the Marar is rather a 13. Physi- 
poor-looking creature, dark and undersized ; but the women ^^ce^'^'^^'^' 
are often not bad looking, and dressed up in their best at 
a wedding, rattling their castanets and waving light-coloured 
silk handkerchiefs, give a very graceful dance. The caste 
are not as a rule celebrated for their cleanliness. A polite 
way of addressing a Marar is to call him Patel." 

Mallah, Malha/ — A small caste of boatmen and fisher- 
men in the Jubbulporc and Narsinghpur Districts, which 
numbered about 5000 persons in 191 1. It is scarcely 
correct to designate the Mallahs as a distinct caste, as in 
both these Districts it appears from inquiry that the term 
is synonymous with Kewat. Apparently, however, the 
Mallahs do form a separate endogamous group, and owing 
to many of them having adopted the profession of growing 
hemp, a crop which respectable Hindu castes usually refuse 
to cultivate, it is probable that they would not be allowed 
to intermarry with the Kewats of other Districts. In the 
United Provinces Mr. Crooke states that the Mallahs, 
though, as their Arabic name indicates, of recent origin, 
have matured into a definite social group, including a 
number of endogamous tribes. The term Mallah has 
nothing to do with the Mulla or Muhammadan priest 
among the frontier tribes, but comes from an Arabic 
word meaning ' to be salt,' or, according to another deriva- 
tion, ' to move the wings as a bird.' " The Mallahs of the 
Central Provinces are also, in spite of their Arabic name, a 
purely Hindu caste. In Narsinghpur they say that their 
original ancestor was one Bali or Baliram, who was a boat- 
man and was so strong that he could carry his boat to the 
river and back under his armpit. On one occasion he 
ferried Rama across the Ganges in Benares, and it is said 

^ This article is based on papers Misra, Ethnographic clerk, 
by Mr. Shyamacharan, B.A., B. L., - Crooke's Tribes and Castes of the 

Pleader, Narsinghpur, and Pyare Lai N.W.P. and OuJh, art. Mallah. 

172 MANA part 

that Rama gave him a horse to show his gratitude ; but 
BaHram was so ignorant that he placed the bridle on the 
horse's tail instead of the head. And from this act of 
Baliram's arose the custom of having the rudder of a boat 
at the stern instead of at the bow. The Mallahs in the 
Central Provinces appear from their family names to be 
immigrants from Bundelkhand. Their customs resemble 
those of lower-class Hindus. Girls are usually married 
under the age of twelve years, and the remarriage of widows 
is permitted, while divorce may be effected in the presence 
of the panchdyat or caste committee by the husband and 
wife breaking a straw between them. They are scantily 
clothed and are generally poor. A proverb about them 
says : 

Jahdn betJicjt Malao 
Tahan luge alao, 

or, ' Where Mallahs sit, there is always a fire.' This refers 
to their custom of kindling fires on the river-bank to protect 
themselves from cold. In Narsinghpur the Mallahs have 
found a profitable opening in the cultivation of hemp, a 
crop which other Hindu castes until recently tabooed on 
account probably of the dirty nature of the process of 
cleaning out the fibre and the pollution necessarily caused 
to the water-supply. They sow and cut hemp on Sundays 
and Wednesdays, which are regarded as auspicious days. 
They also grow melons, and will not enter a melon-field 
with their shoes on or allow a woman during her periodical 
impurity to approach it. The Mallahs are poor and 
illiterate, but rank with Dhlmars and Kewats, and Brahmans 
will take water from their hands. 

Mana.^ — A Dravidian caste of cultivators and labourers 
belonging to the Chanda District, from which they have 
spread to Nagpur, Bhandara and Balaghat. In 191 1 they 
numbered nearly 50,000 persons, of whom 34,000 belonged 
to Chanda. The origin of the caste is obscure. In the 
Chanda Settlement Report of 1869 Major Lucie Smith 
wrote of them : " Tradition asserts that prior to the Gond 

1 This article is based on papers by Mr. I lira Lul and G. Padaya Naidu of 
the Gazetteer Office. 

II MAN A 173 

conquest the Manas reigned over the country, having their 
strongholds at Surajgarh in Ahiri and at Manikgarh in the 
Miinikgarh hills, now of Hyderabad, and that after a troubled 
rule of two hundred years they fell before the Gonds. In 
appearance they are of the Gond type, and are strongly 
and stoutly made ; while in character they are hardy, in- 
dustrious and truthful. Many warlike traditions still linger 
among them, and doubtless in days gone by they did their 
duty as good soldiers, but they have long since hung up 
sword and shield and now rank among the best cultivators 
of rice in Chanda." Another local tradition states that a 
line of Mana princes ruled at Wairagarh. The names of 
three princes are remembered : Kurumpruhoda, the founder 
of the line ; Surjat Badwaik, who fortified Surjagarh ; and 
Gahilu, who built Manikgarh. As regards the name Manik- 
garh, it may be mentioned that the tutelary deity of the 
Nagvansi kings of Bastar, who ruled there before the 
accession of the present Raj-Gond dynasty in the fourteenth 
century, was Manikya Devi, and it is possible that the chiefs 
of Wairagarh were connected with the Bastar kings. Some 
of the Manas say that they, as well as the Gowaris, are 
offshoots of the Gond tribe ; and a local saying to the 
effect that ' The Gond, the Gowari and the Mana eat boiled 
juari or beans on leaf-plates ' shows that they are associated 
together in the popular mind. Hislop states that the Ojhas, 
or soothsayers and minstrels of the Gonds, have a sub- 
division of Mana Ojhas, who lay claim to special sanctity, 
refusing to take food from any other caste.^ The Gonds 
have a subdivision called Mannewar, and as war is only 
a Telugu suffix for the plural, the proper name Manne 
closely resembles Mana. It is shown in the article on the 
Parja tribe that the Parjas were a class of Gonds or a tribe 
akin to them, who were dominant in Bastar prior to the 
later immigration under the ancestors of the present Bastar 
dynasty. And the most plausible hypothesis as to the past 
history of the Manas is that they were also the rulers of 
some tracts of Chanda, and were displaced like the Parjas 
by a Gond invasion from the south. 

In Bhandara, where the Manas hold land, it is related 

1 Papers on the Aboriginal Tribes of the Central Provinces, p. 6. 

174 MANA I'AKi 

that in former times a gigantic kite lived on the hill of 
Ghurkundi, near Sakoli, and devoured the crops of the 
surrounding country by whole fields at a time. The king 
of Chanda proclaimed that whoever killed the kite would be 
granted the adjoining lands. A Mana shot the kite with an 
arrow and its remains were taken to Chanda in eight carts, 
and as his reward he received the grant of a zamlndari. 
In appearance the Manas, or at least some of them, are 
rather fine men, nor do their complexion and features show 
more noticeable traces of aboriginal descent than those of 
the local Hindus. But their neighbours in Chanda and 
Bastar, the Maria Gonds, are also taller and of a better 
physical type than the average Dravidian, so that their 
physical appearance need not militate against the above 
hypothesis. They retained their taste for fighting until 
within quite recent times, and in Katol and other towns 
below the Satpura hills, Manas were regularly enlisted as a 
town guard for repelling the Pindari raids. Their descend- 
ants still retain the ancestral matchlocks, and several of 
them make good use of these as professional shikaris or 
hunters. Many of them are employed as servants by land- 
owners and moneylenders for the collection of debts or the 
protection of crops, and others are proprietors, cultivators 
and labourers, while a few even lend money on their own 
account. Manas hold three zamlndari estates in Bhandara 
and a few villages in Chanda ; here they are considered to 
be good cultivators, but have the reputation as a caste of 
being very miserly, and though possessed of plenty, living 
only on the poorest and coarsest food.^ The Mana women 
are proverbial for the assistance which they render to their 
husbands in the work of cultivation. 

Owing to their general adoption of Maratha customs, 
the Manas are now commonly regarded as a caste and not a 
forest tribe, and this view may be accepted. They have 
two subcastcs, the Badwaik Manas, or soldiers, and the 
Khad Manas, who live in the plains and are considered to 
be of impure descent. Badwaik or ' The Great Ones ' is a 
titular term applied to a person carrying arms, and assumed 
by certain Rajputs and also by some of the lower castes. 

' Rev. A. Wood in Chanda District Gazetteer, para. 96. 

II MAN A 175 

A third group of Manas are now amalgamated with the 
Kunbis as a regular subdivision of that caste, though they 
are regarded as somewhat lower than the others. They 
have also a number of exogamous septs of the usual titular 
and totemistic types, the few recognisable names being 
Marathi. It is worth noticing that several pairs of these 
septs, as Jamare and Gazbe, Narnari and Chudri, Wagh and 
Rawat, and others are prohibited from intermarriage. And 
this may be a relic of some wider scheme of division of the 
type common among the Australian aborigines. The social 
customs of the Manas are the same as those of the other 
lower Maratha castes, as described in the articles on Kunbi, 
Kohli and Mahar. A bride-price of Rs. 12-8 is usually 
paid, and if the bridegroom's father has the money, he takes 
it with him on going to arrange for the match. Only one 
married woman of the bridegroom's family accompanies him 
to the wedding, and she throws rice over him five times. 
Four days in the year are appointed for the celebration of 
weddings, the festivals of Shivratri and of Akhatij, and 
a day each in the months of Magh (January) and Phagun 
(February). This rule, however, is not universal. Brahmans 
do not usually officiate at their ceremonies, but they employ 
a Brahman to prepare the rice which is thrown over the 
couples. Marriage within the sept is forbidden, as well as 
the union of the children of two sisters. But the practice 
of marrying a brother's daughter to a sister's son is a very 
favourite one, being known as Mahunchar, and in this 
respect the Manas resemble the Gonds. When a widow is 
to be remarried, she stops on the way by the bank of a 
stream as she is proceeding to her new husband's house, and 
here her clothes are taken off and buried by an exorcist 
with a view to laying the first husband's spirit and prevent- 
ing it from troubling the new household. If a woman goes 
wrong with a man of another caste she is not finally cast 
out, but if she has a child she must first dispose of it to 
somebody else after it is weaned. She may then be re- 
admitted into caste by having her hair shaved off and giving 
three feasts ; the first is prepared by the caste and eaten 
outside her house, the second is prepared by her relatives 
and eaten within her house, and at the third the caste 

176 MANBHAO i-akt 

reinstate her by partaking of food cooked by herself. The 
dead are either buried or burnt ; in the former case a 
feast is given immediately after the burial and no further 
mourning is observed ; in the latter the period of mourning 
is three days. As among the Gonds, the dead are laid with 
feet to the north. A woman is impure for seven days after 

The Manas have Bhats or genealogists of their own 
caste, a separate one being appointed for each sept. The 
Bhat of any sept can only accept gifts from members of that 
sept, though he may take food from any one of the caste. 
The Bhats are in the position of beggars, and the other 
Manas will not take food from them. Every man must 
have a Bhat for his family under penalty of being tempor- 
arily put out of caste. It is said that the Bhats formerly 
had books showing the pedigrees of the different families, 
but that once in a spirit of arrogance they placed their shoes 
upon the books ; and the other Manas, not brooking this 
insolence, burnt the books. The gravity of such an act may 
be realised when it is stated that if anybody even threatens 
to hit a Mana with a shoe, the indignity put upon him is so 
great that he is temporarily excluded from caste and penal- 
ised for readmission. Since this incident the Bhats have to 
address the Manas as ' Brahma,' to show their respect, the 
Marra replying ' Ram, Ram.' Their women wear short loin- 
cloths, exposing part of the thigh, like the Gonds. They 
eat pork and drink liquor, but will take cooked food only 
from Brahmans. 

I. History Manbhao/ — A religious sect or order, which has now 

and nature ^gcome a caste, belonging to the Maratha Districts of the 

of the sect. 

Central Provinces and to Berar. Their total strength in 
India in 191 1 was 10,000 persons, of whom the Central 
Provinces and Berar contained 4000. The name would 
appear to have some such meaning as ' The reverend 
brothers.' The Manbhaos are stated to be a Vaishnavite 

1 Tliis article is compiled from notes burgh ; Captain Mackintosh's Accotmt 

on the caste drawn up by Colonel ^ Me j)/i2«(^//rt^j' (India Office Tracts) ; 

Mackenzie and contributed to the and a paper by Pyare Lai Misra, 

Pioneer newspaper by Mrs. Ilors- Ethnographic clerk. 


order founded in Berar some two centuries ago.^ They 
themselves say that their order is a thousand years old and 
that it was founded by one Arjun Bhat, who lived at 
Domegaon, near Ahmadnagar. He was a great Sanskrit 
scholar and a devotee of Krishna, and preached his doctrines 
to all except the impure castes. Ridhpur, in Berar, is the 
present headquarters of the order, and contains a monastery 
and three temples, dedicated to Krishna and Dattatreya,^ 
the only deities recognised by the Manbhaos. Each temple 
is named after a village, and is presided over by a Mahant 
elected from the celibate Manbhaos. There are other 
Mahants, also known after the names of villages or towns 
in which the monasteries over which they preside are 
located. Among these are Sheone, from the village near 
Chandur in Amraoti District ; Akulne, a village near 
Ahmadnagar ; Lasorkar, from Lasor, near Aurangabad ; 
Mehkarkar, from Mehkar in Buldana ; and others. The 
order thus belongs to Berar and the adjoining parts of 
India. Colonel Mackenzie describes Ridhpur as follows : 
" The name is said to be derived from rzdh, meaning blood, 
a Rakshas or demon having been killed there by Para- 
surama, and it owes its sanctity to the fact that the god 
lived there. Black stones innumerable scattered about the 
town show where the god's footsteps became visible. At 
Ridhpur Krishna is represented by an ever-open, sleeplessly 
watching eye, and some Manbhaos carry about a small 
black stone disk with an eye painted on it as an amulet." 
Frequently their shrines contain no images, but are simply 
chabiitras or platforms built over the place where Krishna 
or Dattatreya left marks of their footprints. Over the 
platform is a small veranda, which the Manbhaos kiss, 
calling upon the name of the god. Sukli, in Bhandara, 
is also a headquarters of the caste, and contains many 
Manbhao tombs. Here they burn camphor in honour of 
Dattatreya and make offerings of cocoanuts. They make 
pilgrimages to the different shrines at the full moons of 
Chait (IMarch) and Kartik (October). They pay reverence 
to no deities except Krishna and Dattatreya, and observe 

1 Berar Census Report (i2>Si),Y). 62. devotee who has been deified as an 
'•^ Dattatreya was a celebrated Sivite incarnation of Siva. 


178 MANBHAO part 

the festivals of Gokul Ashtami in August and Datta- 
Jayantri in December. They consider the month of Aghan 
(November) as holy, because Krishna called it so in the 
Bhagavat-Glta. This is their sacred book, and they reject 
the other Hindu scriptures. Their conception of Krishna is 
based on his description of himself to Arjun in the Bhaga- 
vat-Gita as follows : " ' Behold things wonderful, never seen 
before, behold in this my body the whole world, animate 
and inanimate. But as thou art unable to see with these 
thy natural eyes, I will give thee a heavenly eye, with which 
behold my divine connection.' 

" The son of Pandu then beheld within the body of the 
god of gods standing together the whole universe divided 
forth into its vast variety. He was overwhelmed with 
wonder and every hair was raised on end. ' But I am not 
to be seen as thou hast seen me even by the assistance of 
the Vedas, by mortification, by sacrifices, by charitable gifts : 
but I am to be seen, to be known in truth, and to be 
obtained by that worship which is offered up to me alone : 
and he goeth unto me whose works are done for me : who 
esteemeth me supreme : who is my servant only : who hath 
abandoned all consequences, and who liveth amongst all 
men without hatred.' " 

Again : " He my servant is dear to me who is free from 
enmity, the friend of all nature, merciful, exempt from all 
pride and selfishness, the same in pain and in pleasure, 
patient of wrong, contented, constantly devout, of subdued 
passions and firm resolves, and whose mind and under- 
standing are fixed on me alone." 
2. Divi- The Manbhaos are now divided into three classes : the 

the"order Brahmachari ; the Gharbari ; and the Bhope. The Brahma- 
chari are the ascetic members of the sect who subsist by 
begging and devote their lives to meditation, prayer and 
spiritual instruction. The Gharbari are those who, while 
leading a mendicant life, wearing the distinctive black dress 
of the order and having their heads shaved, are permitted 
to get married with the permission of their Mahant or guru. 
The ceremony is performed in strict privacy inside a temple. 
A man sometimes signifies his choice of a spouse by putting 
his77/<?/^ or beggar's wallet upon hers; if she lets it remain 


there, the betrothal is complete. A woman may show her 
preference for a man by bringing a pair of garlands and 
placing one on his head and the other on that of the image 
of Krishna. The marriage is celebrated according to the 
custom of the Kunbis, but without feasting or music. 
Widows are permitted to marry again. Married women 
do not wear bangles nor toe-rings nor the customary neck- 
lace of beads ; they put on no jewellery, and have no cJioli 
or bodice. The Bhope or Bhoall, the third division of the 
caste, are wholly secular and wear no distinctive dress, 
except sometimes a black head-cloth. They may engage 
in any occupation that pleases them, and sometimes act as 
servants in the temples of the caste. In Berar they 
are divided into thirteen bas or orders, named after the 
disciples of Arjun Bhat, who founded the various shrines. 
The Manbhaos are recruited by initiation of both men 
and women from any except the impure castes. Young 
children who have been vowed by their parents to a reli- 
gious life or are left without relations, are taken into the 
order. Women usually join it either as children or late in 
life. The celibate members, male or female, live separately 
in companies like monks and nuns. They do not travel 
together, and hold services in their temples at different times. 
A woman admitted into the order is henceforward the disciple 
of the woman who initiated her by whispering the guru 
mantra or sacred verse into her ear. She addresses her 
preceptress as mother and the other women as sisters. The 
Manbhaos are intelligent and generally literate, and they 
lead a simple and pure life. They are respectable and are 
respected by the people, and a guru or spiritual teacher is 
often taken from them in place of a Brahman or Gosain. 
They often act as priests or gurus to the Mahars, for whom 
Brahmans will not perform these services. Their honesty 
and humility are proverbial among the Kunbis, and are in 
pleasing contrast to the character of many of the Hindu 
mendicant orders. They consider it essential that all their 
converts should be able to read the Bhagavat-Glta or a 
commentary on it, and for this purpose teach them to read 
and write during the rainy season when they are assembled 
at one of their monasteries. 

i8o MANBHAO part 

3. Reiigi- One of the leading tenets of the Manbhaos is a respect 

vances^^'^ for all forms of animal and even vegetable life, much on a 
and par with that of the Jains. They strain water through a 

cus oms. f~.\Q<^ before drinking it, and then delicately wipe the cloth 
to preserve any insects that may be upon it. They should 
not drink water in, and hence cannot reside in, any village 
where animal sacrifices are offered to a deity. They will 
not cut down a tree nor break off a branch, or even a blade 
of grass, nor pluck a fruit or an ear of corn. Some, it is 
said, will not even bathe in tanks for fear of destroying 
insect-life. For this reason also they readily accept cooked 
food as alms, so that they may avoid the risk of the destruc- 
tion of life involved in cooking. The Manbhaos dislike the 
din and noise of towns, and live generally in secluded places, 
coming into the towns only to beg. Except in the rains 
they wander about from place to place. They beg in the 
morning, and then return home and, after bathing and 
taking their food, read their religious books. They must 
always worship Krishna before taking food, and for this 
purpose when travelling they carry an image of the deity 
about with them. They will take food and water from the 
higher castes, but they must not do so from persons of low 
caste on pain of temporary excommunication. They neither 
smoke nor chew tobacco. Both men and women shave the 
head clean, and men also the face. This is first done on 
initiation by the village barber. But the sendJii or scalp- 
lock and moustaches of the novice must be cut off by his 
guru, this being the special mark of his renunciation of the 
world. The scalp-locks of the various candidates are pre- 
served until a sufficient quantity of hair has been collected, 
when ropes are made of it, which they fasten round their 
loins. This may be because Hindus attach a special efficacy 
to the scalp-lock, perhaps as being the seat of a man's 
strength or power. The nuns also shave their heads, and 
generally eschew every kind of personal adornment. Both 
monks and nuns usually dress in black or ashen-grey clothes 
as a mark of humility, though some have discarded black in 
favour of the usual Hindu mendicant colour of red ochre. 
The black colour is in keeping with the complexion of 
Krishna, their chief god. They dye their cloths with 


lamp-black mixed with a little water and oil. They usually 
sleep on the ground, with the exception of those who are 
Mahants, and they sometimes have no metal vessels, but use 
bags made of strong cloth for holding food and water. 
Men's names have the suffix Boa, as Datto Boa, Kesho Boa, 
while those of boys end in da, as Manoda, Raojida, and 
those of women in Bai, as Gopa Bai, Som Bai. The dead 
are buried, not in the common burial-grounds, but in some 
waste place. The corpse is laid on its side, facing the east, 
with head to the north and feet to the south. A piece of silk ■ 
or other valuable cloth is placed on it, on which salt is 
sprinkled, and the earth is then filled in and the ground 
levelled so as to leave no trace of the grave. No memorial 
is erected over a Manbhao tomb, and no mourning nor cere- 
mony of purification is observed, nor are oblations offered 
to the spirits of the dead. If the dead man leaves any 
property, it is expended on feeding the brotherhood for ten 
days ; and if not, the Mahant of his order usually does this 
in his name. 

The Manbhaos are dissenters from orthodox Hinduism, 4. Hostility 
and have thus naturally incurred the hostility of the Brah- Msnbhaos 
mans. Mr. Kitts remarks of them : ^ " The Brahmans hate and 
the Manbhaos, who have not only thrown off the Brahmanical ^^ '"^"^' 
yoke themselves, but do much to oppose the influence of 
Brahmans among the agriculturists. The Brahmans repre- 
sent them as descended from one Krishna Bhat, a Brahman 
who was outcasted for keeping a beautiful Mang woman as 
his mistress. His four sons were called the Mdug-bhaos 
or Mang brothers." This is an excellent instance of the 
Brahman talent for pressing etymology into their service as 
an argument, in which respect they resemble the Jesuits. 
By asserting that the Manbhaos are descended from a Mang 
woman, one of the most despised castes, they attempt to 
dispose of these enemies of a Brahman hegemony without 
further ado. 

Another story about their wearing black or ashen- 
coloured clothes related by Colonel Mackenzie is that 
Krishna Bhat's followers, refusing to believe the aspersions 
cast on their leader by the Brahmans, but knowing that 

' Berar Census Report (iSSi), p. 62. 

1 82 MANBHAO i'Art 

some one among them had been guilty of the sin imputed 
to him, determined to decide the matter by the ordeal of 
fire. Having made a fire, they cast into it their own clothes 
and those of their guru, each man having previously written 
his name on his garments. The sacred fire made short work 
of all the clothes except those of Krishna Bhat, which it 
rejected and refused to burn, thereby forcing the unwilling 
disciples to believe that the finger of God pointed to their 
revered guru as the sinner. In spite of the shock of thus 
discovering that their idol had feet of very human clay, they 
still continued to regard Krishna Bhat's precepts as good 
and worthy of being followed, only stipulating that for all 
time Manbhaos should wear clothes the colour of ashes, in 
memory of the sacred fire which had disclosed to them their 
guru's sin. 

Captain Mackintosh also relates that "About A.D. 1780, 
a Brahman named Anand Rishi, an inhabitant of Paithan on 
the Godavari, maltreated a Manbhao, who came to ask for 
alms at his door. This Manbhao, after being beaten, pro- 
ceeded to his friends in the vicinity, and they collected a 
large number of brethren and went to the Brahman to 
demand satisfaction ; Anand Rishi assembled a number 
of Gosains and his friends, and pursued and attacked the 
Manbhaos, who fled and asked Ahalya Bai, Rani of Indore, 
to protect them ; she endeavoured to pacify Anand Rishi 
by telling him that the Manbhaos were her gurus ; he said 
that they were Mangs, but declared that if they agreed to 
his proposals he would forgive them ; one of them was that 
they were not to go to a Brahman's house to ask for alms, 
and another that if any Brahman repeated Anand Rishi's 
name and drew a line across the road when a Manbhao was 
advancing, the Manbhao, without saying a word, must return 
the road he came. Notwithstanding this attempt to prevent 
their approaching a Brahman's house, they continue to ask 
alms of the Brahmans, and some Brahmans make a point of 
supplying them with provisions." 

This story endeavours to explain a superstition still 
observed by the caste. This is that when a Manbhao is 
proceeding along a road, if any one draws a line across the 
road with a stick in front of him the Manbhao will wait 


without passing the line until some one else comes up and 
crosses it before him. In reality this is probably a primitive 
superstition similar to that which makes a man stop when a 
snake has crossed the road in front of him and efface its 
track before proceeding. It is said that the members of the 
order also carry their sticks upside down, and a saying is 
repeated about them : 

MCmbJiao Jiokar kale kaprc dCirhi DtiicJii micndhata Jiai^ 
Ulti lakri hath men pakri ivoh kya Sahib iiiilta hai j 

or, " The Manbhao wears black clothes, shaves his face and 
holds his stick upside down, and thinks he will find God that 

This saying is attributed to Kablr. 



1. Origin ajid traditions. 4. Widow-marriage. 

2. Subdivisions. 5. Burial. 

3. Marriage. 6. Occupation. 

7. Religio7i and social status. 

I. Origin Mang".^ — A low impure caste of the Maratha Districts, 

^"^,. . who act as villasre musicians and castrate bullocks, while 

traditions. ^ . 1 • r^ 

their women serve as midwives. The Mangs are also some- 
times known as Vajantri or musician. They numbered 
more than 90,000 persons in 191 1, of whom 30,000 
belonged to the Nagpur and Nerbudda Divisions of the 
Central Provinces, and 60,000 to Berar. The real origin 
of the Mangs is obscure, but they probably originated from 
the subject tribes and became a caste through the adoption 
of the menial services which constitute their profession. In 
a Maratha book called the Shudra Kamlakar,^ it is stated 
that the Mang was the offspring of the union of a Vaifieh 
man and an Ambashtha woman. A Vaideh was the ille- 
gitimate child of a Vaishya father and a Brahman mother, 
and an Ambashtha of a Brahman father and a Vaishya 
mother. The business of the Mang was to play on the 
flute and to make known the wishes of the Raja to his 
subjects by beat of drum. He was to live in the forest or 
outside the village, and was not to enter it except with the 
Raja's permission. He was to remove the dead bodies of 
strangers, to hang criminals, and to take away and appro- 
priate the clothes and bedding of the dead. The Mangs 
themselves relate the following legend of their origin as 
given by Mr. Sathe : Long ago before cattle were used for 

' This article is based partly on a Extra Assistant Commissioner. 
paper by Mr. Achyut Sitaram Sathe, ^ P. 389. 


I'A RT 1 1 5 UBDI VISIONS 185 

ploughing, there was so terrible a famine upon the earth 
that all the grain was eaten up, and there was none left for 
seed. Mahadeo took pity on the few men who were left 
alive, and gave them some grain for sowing. In those days 
men used to drag the plough through the earth themselves. 
But when a Kunbi, to whom Mahadeo had given some seed, 
went to try and sow it, he and his family were so emaciated 
by hunger that they were unable, in spite of their united 
efforts, to get the plough through the ground. In this 
pitiable case the Kunbi besought Mahadeo to give him 
some further assistance, and Mahadeo then appeared, and, 
bringing with him the bull Nandi, upon which he rode, told 
the Kunbi to yoke it to the plough. This was done, and 
so long as Mahadeo remained present, Nandi dragged the 
plough peaceably and successfully. But as soon as the god 
disappeared, the bull became restive and refused to work 
any longer. The Kunbi. being helpless, again complained 
to Mahadeo, when the god appeared, and in his wrath at 
the conduct of the bull, great drops of perspiration stood 
upon his brow. One of these fell to the ground, and im- 
mediately a coal-black man sprang up and stood ready to 
do Mahadeo's bidding. He was ordered to bring the bull 
to reason, and he went and castrated it, after which it 
worked well and quietly ; and since then the Kunbis have 
always used bullocks for ploughing, and the descendants of 
the man, who was the first Mang, are employed in the office 
for which he was created. It is further related that Nandi, 
the bull, cursed the Mang in his pain, saying that he and 
his descendants should never derive any profit from plough- 
ing with cattle. And the Mangs say that to this day none 
of them prosper by taking to cultivation, and quote the 
following proverb: ^ Keli kheti, Zhdli viati' or, ' If a Mang 
sows grain he will only reap dust.' 

The caste is divided into the following subcastes : 2. Sub- 
Dakhne, Khandeshe and Berarya, or those belonging to the ^'^'^'O"''- 
Deccan, Khandesh and Berar ; Ghodke, those who tend 
horses; Dafle, tom-tom players; Uchle, pickpockets; 
Pindari, descendants of the old freebooters ; Kakarkadhe, 
stone-diggers ; Holer, hide-curers ; and Garori The Garoris ^ 

1 See also separate article Mang-Garori. 

1 86 MANG part 

are a sept of vagrant snake-charmers and jugglers. Many 
are professional criminals. 
3. Mar- The caste is divided into exogamous family groups 

riage. named after animals or other objects, or of a titular nature. 
One or two have the names of other castes. Members of 
the same group may not intermarry. Those who are well- 
to-do marry their daughters very young for the sake of 
social estimation, but there is no compulsion in this matter. 
In families which are particularly friendly, Mr. Sathe 
remarks, children may be betrothed before birth if the two 
mothers are with child together. Betel is distributed, and 
a definite contract is made, on the supposition that a boy 
and girl will be born. Sometimes the abdomen of each 
woman is marked with red vermilion. A grown-up girl 
should not be allowed to see her husband's face before 
marriage. The wedding is held at the bride's house, but if 
it is more convenient that it should be in the bridegroom's 
village, a temporary house is found for the bride's party, 
and the marriage-shed is built in front of it. The bride 
must wear a yellow bodice and cloth, yellow and red being 
generally considered among Hindus as the auspicious colours 
for weddings. When she leaves for her husband's house 
she puts on another or going-away dress, which should be 
as fine as the family can afford, and thereafter she may wear 
any colour except white. The distinguishing marks of a 
married woman are the niangal-sutrani or holy thread, which 
her husband ties on her neck at marriage ; the garsoli or 
string of black beads round the neck ; the silver toe-rings 
and glass bangles. If any one of these is lost, it must be 
replaced at once, or she is likely soon to be a widow. The 
food served at the wedding-feast consists of rice and pulse, 
but more essential than these is an ample provision of liquor. 
It is a necessary feature of a Mang wedding that the bride- 
groom should go to it riding on a horse. The Mahars, 
another low caste of the Maratha Districts, worship the 
horse, and between them and the Mangs there exists a long- 
standing feud, so that they do not, if they can help it, drink 
of the same well. The sight of a Mang riding on a horse is 
thus gall and wormwood to the Mahars, who consider it a 
terrible degradation to the noble animal, and this fact 




inflaming their natural enmity, formerly led to riots between 
tiic castes. Under native rule the Mangs were public 
executioners, and it was said to be the proudest moment 
of a Mang's life when he could perform his office on a 

The bride proceeds to her husband's house for a short 
visit immediately after the marriage, and then goes home 
again. Thereafter, till such time as she finally goes to live 
with him, she makes brief visits for festivals or on other 
social occasions, or to help her mother-in-law, if her assist- 
ance is required. If the mother-in-law is ill and requires 
somebody to wait on her, or if she is a shrew and wants 
some one to bully, or if she has strict ideas of discipline and 
wishes personally to conduct the bride's training for married 
life, she makes the girl come more frequently and stay 

The remarriage of widows is permitted, and a widow 4. widow- 
may marry any one except persons of her own family group ™^"'^g^- 
or her husband's elder brother, who stands to her in the 
light of a father. She is permitted, but not obliged, to marry 
her husband's younger brother, but if he has performed the 
dead man's obsequies, she may not marry him, as this act 
has placed him in the relation of a son to her deceased 
husband. More usually the widow marries some one in 
another village, because the remarriage is always held in 
some slight disrepute, and she prefers to be at a distance 
from her first husband's family. Divorce is said to be per- 
mitted only for persistent misconduct on the part of the 

The caste always bury the dead and observe mourning 5. Burial, 
only for three days. On returning from a burial they all 
get drunk, and then go to the house of the deceased and 
chew the bitter leaves of the film tree {Melia indicci). These 
they then spit out of their mouths to indicate their complete 
severance from the dead man. 

The caste beat drums at village festivals, and castrate 6. Occupa- 
cattle, and they also make brooms and mats of date-palm ^'°"- 
and keep leeches for blood-letting. Some of them are 
village watchmen and their women act as midwives. As 
soon as a baby is born, the midwife blows into its mouth, 


ears and nose in order to clear them of any impediments. 
When a man is initiated by a guru or spiritual preceptor, the 
latter blows into his ear, and the Mangs therefore say that 
on account of this act of the midwife they are the gurus of 
all Hindus. During an eclipse the Mangs beg, because the 
demons Rahu and Ketu, who are believed to swallow the 
sun and moon on such occasions, were both Mangs, and 
devout Hindus give alms to their fellow-castemen in order 
to appease them. Those of them who are thieves are said 
not to steal from the persons of a woman, a bangle-seller, a 
Lingayat Mali or another Mang.^ In Maratha villages they 
sometimes take the place of Chamars, and work in leather, 
and one writer says of them : " The Mang is a village 
menial in the Maratha villages, making all leather ropes, 
thongs and whips, which are used by the cultivators ; he 
frequently acts as watchman ; he is by profession a thief 
and executioner ; he readily hires himself as an assassin, 
and when he commits a robbery he also frequently murders." 
In his menial capacity he receives presents at seed-time and 
harvest, and it is said that the Kunbi will never send the 
Mang empty away, because he represents the wrath of 
Mahadeo, being made from the god's sweat when he was 
7. Reii- The caste especially venerate the goddess Devi. They 

S'°" . , apparently identify Devi with Saraswati, the goddess of 

and social rrjj » & 

status. wisdom, and they have a story to the effect that once 
Brahma wished to ravish his daughter Saraswati. She fled 
from him and went to all the gods, but none of them would 
protect her for fear of Brahma. At last in despair she came 
to a Mang's house, and the Mang stood in the door and 
kept off Brahma with a wooden club. In return for this 
Saraswati blessed him and said that he and his descendants 
should never lack for food. They also revere Mahadeo, and 
on every Monday they worship the cow, placing vermilion 
on her forehead and washing her feet. The cat is regarded 
as a sacred animal, and a Mang's most solemn oath is sworn 
on a cat. A house is defiled if a cat or a dog dies or a cat 
has kittens in it, and all the earthen pots must be broken. 
If a man accidentally kills a cat or a dog a heavy penance is 

' Berar Census Report (1881), p. 147. 


exacted, and two feasts must be given to the caste. To kill 
an ass or a monkey is a sin only less heinous. A man is 
also put out of caste if kicked or beaten with a shoe by any 
one of another caste, even a Brahman, or if he is struck with 
the kathri or mattress made of rags which the villagers put 
on their sleeping-cots. Mr. Gayer remarks ^ that " The 
Mangs show great respect for the bamboo ; and at a 
marriage the bridal couple are made to stand in a bamboo 
basket. They also reverence the 7ilin tree, and the Mangs 
of Sholapur spread Jiaridli'' grass and nini leaves on the 
spot where one of their caste dies." The social status of 
the Mangs is of the lowest. They usually live in a separate 
quarter of the village and have a well for their own use. 
They may not enter temples. It is recorded that under 
native rule the Mahars and Mangs were not allowed within 
the gates of Poona between 3 P.M. and 9 A.M., because 
before nine and after three their bodies cast too long a 
shadow ; and whenever their shadow fell upon a Brahman 
it polluted him, so that he dare not taste food or water until 
he had bathed and washed the impurity away. So also no 
low-caste man was allowed to live in a walled town ; cattle 
and dogs could freely enter and remain but not the Mahar 
or Mang.^ The caste will eat the flesh of pigs, rats, 
crocodiles and jackals and the leavings of others, and some 
of them will eat beef Men may be distinguished by the 
senai flute which they carry and by a large ring of gold or 
brass worn in the lobe of the ear. A Mang's sign-manual 
is a representation of his bhall-singdra or castration-knife. 
Women are tattooed before marriage, with dots on the 
forehead, nose, cheeks and chin, and with figures of a date- 
palm on the forearm, a scorpion on the palm of the hand, 
and flies on the fingers. The caste do not bear a good 
character, and it is said of a cruel man, ' Mdng-Nirdayil 
or * Hardhearted as a Mang.' 

Mang-Garori. — This is a criminal subdivision of the 
Mang caste, residing principally in Berar. They were not 

^ Lectures on the Cn'niiiial Tribes ^ Dr. Murray Mitchell's Great Re- 

of the Central Provinces, p. 79. ligions of India, p. 63. 

^ Cynodon dactylou. 



separately recorded at the census. The name Garori appears 
to be a corruption of Garudi, and signifies a snake-charmer.^ 
Garuda, the Brahminy kite, the bird on which Vishnu rides, 
was the great subduer of snakes, and hence probably snake- 
charmers are called Garudi. Some of the Mang-Garoris 
are snake-charmers, and this may have been the original 
occupation of the caste, though the bulk of them now appear 
to live by dealing in cattle and thieving. The following 
notice of them is abstracted from Major Gunthorpe's Notes 
on Criminal Tribes? They usually travel about with small 
pals or tents, taking their wives, children, buffaloes and 
dogs with them. The men are well set up and tall. 
Their costume is something like that worn by professional 
gymnasts, consisting of light and short reddish -brown 
drawers {chaddi), a waistband with fringe at either end 
{katchke), and a sheet thrown over the shoulders. The 
Naik or headman of the camp may be recognised by his 
wearing some red woollen cloth about his person or a red 
shawl over his shoulders. The women have short saris 
(body-cloths), usually of blue, and tied in the Telugu fashion. 
They are generally very violent when any attempt is made 
to search an encampment, especially if there is stolen 
property concealed in it. Instances have been known of 
their seizing their infants by the ankles and swinging them 
round their heads, declaring they would continue doing so 
till the children died, if the police did not leave the camp. 
Sometimes also the women of a gang have been known to 
throw off all their clothing and appear in a perfect state of 
nudity, declaring they would charge the police with violating 
their modesty. Men of this tribe are expert cattle-lifters, 
but confine themselves chiefly to buffaloes, which they steal 
while out grazing and very dexterously disguise by trimming 
the horns and firing, so as to avoid recognition by their 
rightful owners. To steal goats and sheep is also one of 
their favourite occupations, and they will either carry the 
animals off from their pens at night or kill them while out 
grazing, in the following manner : having marked a sheep or 
goat which is feeding farthest away from the flock, the thief 
awaits his opportunity till the shepherd's back is turned, 
' From a note by Mr. Hira Lai. '^ Times Press, Bombay, 1882. 


when the animal is quickly captured. Placing his foot on 
the back of the neck near the head, and seizing it under the 
chin with his right hand, the thief breaks the animal's neck 
by a sudden jerk ; he then throws the body into a bush or 
in some dip in the ground to hide it, and walks away, 
watching from a distance. The shepherd, ignorant of the 
loss of one of his animals, goes on leisurely driving his flock 
before him, and when he is well out of sight the Mang- 
Garori removes the captured carcase to his encampment. 
Great care is taken that the skin, horns and hoofs should be 
immediately burnt so as to avoid detection. Their ostensible 
occupation is to trade in barren half-starved buffaloes and 
buffalo calves, or in country ponies. They also purchase 
from Gaoli herdsmen barren buffaloes, which they profess 
to be able to make fertile ; if successful they return them 
for double the purchase-money, but if not, having obtained 
if possible some earnest-money, they abscond and sell the 
animals at a distance.^ Like the Bhamtas, the Mang-Garoris, 
Major Gunthorpe states, make it a rule not to give a girl in 
marriage until the intended husband has proved himself an 
efficient thief Mr. Gayer '^ writes as follows of the caste : 
" I do not think Major Gunthorpe lays sufficient emphasis on 
the part taken by the women in crimes, for they apparently 
do by far the major part of the thieving. Sherring says the 
men never commit house-breaking and very seldom rob on 
the highway : he calls them ' wanderers, showmen, jugglers 
and conjurors,' and describes them as robbers who get their 
information by performing before the houses of rich bankers 
and others. Mang-Garori ^ women steal in markets and 
other places of public resort. They wait to see somebody 
put down his clothes or bag of rupees and watch till his 
attention is attracted elsewhere, when, walking up quietly 
between the article and its owner, they drop their petticoat 
either over or by it, and manage to transfer the stolen pro- 
perty into their basket while picking up the petticoat. If 
an unfavourable omen occurs on the way when the women 
set out to pilfer they place a stone on the ground and dash 

1 Kennedy, Criminal Classes of the ^ This passage is quoted by Mr. 
Bombay Presidency, p. 122. Gayer from the Supplement to the 

2 Lectures on some Criminal Tribes Central Provinces Police Gazette of 
of India. 24th January 1905. 

192 MANG-GARORI part 

another on to it saying, ' If the obstacle is removed, break ' ; 
if the stone struck is broken, they consider that the obstacle 
portended by the unfavourable omen is removed from their 
path, and proceed on their way ; but if not, they return. 
Stolen articles are often bartered at liquor-shops for drink, 
and the Kalars act as receivers of stolen property for the 

The following are some particulars taken from an old 
account of the criminal Mangs : ^ Their leader or headman 
was called the ndik and was elected by a majority of votes, 
though considerable regard was paid to heredity. The 
ndik's person and property were alike inviolable ; after a 
successful foray each of the gang contributed a quarter of 
his share to the ndik, and from the fund thus made up were 
defrayed the expenses of preparation, religious offerings and 
the triumphal feast. A pair of shoes were usually given 
to a Brahman and alms to the poor. To each band was 
attached an informer, who was also receiver of the stolen 
goods. These persons were usually bangle- or perfume- 
sellers or jewellers. In this capacity they were admitted 
into the women's apartments and so enabled to form a 
correct notion of the topography of a house and a shrewd 
guess as to the wealth of its inmates. Like all barbarous 
tribes and all persons addicted to criminal practices the 
Mangs were extremely superstitious. They never set out 
on an expedition on a Friday. After the birth of a child 
the mother and another woman stood on opposite sides of 
the cradle, and the former tossed her child to the other, 
commending it to the mercy of Jai Gopal, and waited to 
receive it back in like manner in the name of Jai Govind. 
Both Gopal and Govind are names of Krishna. The Mangs 
usually married young in life. If a girl happened to hang 
heavy on hand she was married at the age of puberty to 
the deity. In other words, she was attached as a prostitute 
to the temple of the god Khandoba or the goddess Yellama. 
Those belonging to the service of the latter were wont in 
the month of February to parade the streets in a state of 
utter nudity. When a bachelor wished to marry a widow 

^ Mutton's Thui^s, Dacoits and i68, quoting an account hy Captain 
Gang-robbers of India (1857), pp. 164- Barr. 


he was first united to a swallow-wort plant, and this was 
immediately dug up and transplanted, and withering away 
left him at liberty to marry the widow. If a lady survived 
the sorrow caused by the death of two or three husbands she 
could not again enter the holy state unless she consented to 
be married with a fowl under her armpit ; the unfortunate 
bird being afterwards killed to appease the manes of her 
former consorts. 

Manihar.^ — A small caste of pedlars and hawkers. In 
northern India the Manihars are makers of glass bangles, 
and correspond to the Kachera caste of the Central Provinces. 
Mr, Nesfield remarks " that the special industry of the 
Manihars of the United Provinces is the making of glass 
bangles or bracelets. These arc an indispensable adjunct to 
the domestic life of the Hindu woman ; for the glass bangle 
is not worn for personal ornament, but as the badge of the 
matrimonial state, like the wedding-ring in Europe. But 
in the Central Provinces glass bangles are made by the 
Kacheras and the Muhammadan Turkaris or Sisgars, and 
the Manihars are petty hawkers of stationery and articles 
for the toilet, such as miniature looking-glasses, boxes, 
stockings, needles and thread, spangles, and imitation 
jewellery ; and Hindu Jogis and others who take to this 
occupation are accustomed to give their caste as Manihar. 
In 191 1 nearly 700 persons belonging to the caste were 
returned from the northern Districts of the Central Provinces. 
The Manihars are nominally Muhammadans, but they retain 
many Hindu customs. At their weddings they erect a 
marriage-tent, anoint the couple with oil and turmeric and 
make them wear a kankan or wrist-band, to which is attached 
a small purse containing a little mustard-seed and a silver 
ring. The mustard is intended to scare away the evil 
spirits. When the marriage procession reaches the bride's 
village it is met by her people, one of whom holds a bamboo 
in his hands and bars the advance of the procession. The 
bridegroom's father thereupon makes a present of a rupee 

1 This article is based on papers by Munshi I'yare Lai Misra of the Gazet- 
Rai Sahib Nanakchand, 15. A., Head- teer office, 
master, Saugor High School, and ^ Brief View, p. 30. 


194 MANIHAR part 

to the village panchdyat, and his people are allowed to 
proceed. When the bridegroom reaches the bride's house 
he finds her younger sister carrying a kalds or pot of water 
on her head ; he drops a rupee into it and enters the house. 
The bride's sister then comes holding above her head a 
small frame like a tdzia ^ with a cocoanut core hanging 
inside. She raises the frame as high as she can to prevent 
the bridegroom from plucking out the cocoanut core, which, 
however, he succeeds in doing in the end. The girl applies 
powdered ineJindi or henna to the little finger of the 
boy's right hand, in return for which she receives a rupee 
and a piece of cloth. The Kazi then recites verses from the 
Koran which the bridegroom repeats after him, and the 
bride does the same in her turn. This is the Nikah or 
marriage proper, and before it takes place the bridegroom's 
father must present a nose-ring to the bride. The parents 
also fix the Meher or dowry, which, however, is not a dowry 
proper, but a stipulation that if the bridegroom should put 
away his wife after marriage he will pay her a certain agreed 
sum. After the Nikah the bridegroom is given some spices, 
which he grinds on a slab with a roller. He must do the 
grinding very slowly and gently so as to make no noise, or 
it is believed that the married life of the couple will be 
broken by quarrels. A widow is permitted to marry the 
younger brother of her deceased husband, but not his elder 
brother. The caste bury their dead with the head to the 
north. The corpse is first bathed and wrapped in a new 
white sheet, with another sheet over it, and is then laid on 
a cot or in a jandza or coffin. While it is being carried to 
the cemetery the bearers are changed every few steps, so that 
every man who accompanies the funeral may carry the corpse 
for a short distance. When it is lowered into the grave 
the sheet is taken off and given to a Fakir or beggar. When 
the body is covered with earth the priest reads the funeral 
verses at a distance of forty steps from the grave. Feasts 
are given to the caste-fellows on the third, tenth, twentieth 
and fortieth days after the death. The Manihars observe 
the Shabrat festival by distributing to the caste -fellows 

' The tdzias are ornamental reprc- which the Muhammadans make at the 
sentations of the tomb of llussain, Muharram festival. 


Juilua or a mixtuie of melted butter and flour. The Shabrat 
is the middle night of the month Shaban, and Muhammad 
declared that on this night God registers the actions which 
every man will perform during the following year, and all 
those who are fated to die and the children who are to be 
born. Like Hindu widows the Manihar women break their 
bangles when their husband's corpse is removed to the 
burial-ground. The Manihars eat flesh, but not beef or pork ; 
and they also abstain from alcoholic liquor. If a girl is 
seduced and made pregnant before marriage either by a 
man of the caste or an outsider, she remains in her father's 
house until her child has been born, and may then be 
married either to her paramour or any other man of the 
caste by the simple repetition of the Nikah or marriage 
verses, omitting all other ceremonies. The Manihars will 
admit into their community converted Hindus belonging 
even to the lowest castes. 

Mannewar/ — A small tribe belonging to the south or 
Telugu-speaking portion of the Chanda District, where they 
mustered about 1600 persons in 191 1. The home of the 
tribe is the Hyderabad State, where it numbers 22,000 
persons, and the Mannewars are said to have once been 
dominant over a part of that territory. The name is 
derived from a Telugu word inannem^ meaning forest, while 
war is the plural termination in Telugu, Mannewar thus 
signifying ' the people of the forest.' The tribe appear to 
be the inferior branch of the Koya Gonds, and they are 
commonly called Mannewar Koyas as opposed to the Koya 
Doras or the superior branch, Dora meaning ' lord ' or 
master. The Koya Doras thus correspond to the Raj- 
Gonds of the north of the Province and the Mannewar 
Koyas to the Dhur or ' dust ' Gonds." The tribe is divided 
into three exogamous groups : the Nalugu Velpulu worship- 
ping four gods, the Ayidu Velpulu worshipping five, and the 
Anu Velpulu six. A man must marry a woman of one of 
the divisions worshipping a different number of gods from his 

' This article is based on a note - From a glossary published by Mr. 

furnished by Mr. M. Aziz, Officiating Gupta, Assistant Director of Ethnology 
Naib-Tahsildar, Sironcha. for India. 

196 MANNEWAR part 

own, but the Mannevvars do not appear to know the names 
of these gods, and consequently no veneration can be paid 
to them at present, and they survive solely for the purpose 
of regulating marriage. When a betrothal is made a day 
is fixed for taking an omen. In the early morning the boy 
who is to be married has his face washed and turmeric 
smeared on his feet, and is seated on a wooden seat inside 
the house. The elders of the village then proceed outside 
it towards the rising sun and watch for any omen given by 
an animal or bird crossing their path. If this is good the 
marriage is celebrated, and if bad the match is broken off. 
In the former case five of the elders take their food on 
returning from the search for the omen and immediately 
proceed to the bride's village. Here they are met by the 
Pesamuda or village priest, and stay for three days, when the 
amount of the dowry is settled and a date fixed for the 
wedding. The marriage ceremony resembles that of the 
low Telugu castes. The couple are seated on a plough- 
yoke, and coloured rice is thrown on to their heads, and the 
bridegroom ties the mangalya or bead necklace, which is 
the sign of marriage, round the neck of the bride. If a girl 
is deformed, or has some other drawback which prevents her 
from being sought in marriage, she is given away with her 
sister to a first cousin ^ or some other near relative, the two 
sisters being married to him together. A widow may 
marry any man of the tribe except her first husband's 
brothers. If a man takes a widow to his house without 
marrying her he is fined three rupees, while for adultery 
with a married woman the penalty is twenty rupees. A 
divorce can always be obtained, but if the husband demands 
it he is mulcted of twenty rupees by the caste committee, 
while a wife who seeks a divorce must pay ten rupees. 
The Mannewars make an offering of a fowl and some liquor 
to the ploughshare on the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. 
After the picking of the flowers of the mahua ^ they worship 
that tree, offering to it some of the liquor distilled from the 
new flowers, with a fowl and a goat. This is known as the 
Burri festival. At the Holi feast the Mannewars make two 
human figures to represent Kami and Rati, or the god of 
1 Generally the paternal aunt's son. ^ Bassia latifolia. 


love and his wife. The male figure is then thrown on to 
the Holi fire with a live chicken or an egg. This may be 
a reminiscence of a former human sacrifice, which was a 
common custom in many parts of the world at the spring 
festival. The caste usually bury the dead, but are beginning 
to adopt cremation. They do not employ Brahmans for 
their ceremonies and eat all kinds of food, including the 
flesh of pigs, fowls and crocodiles, but in view of their having 
nominally adopted Hinduism, they abstain from beef. 



Numerical statistics. 9. 
Dotible meaning of the term 

Marat ha. i o. 

Origin and position of the 1 1 . 

caste. 1 2 . 

Exogamous clans. 13. 

Other subdivisions. 1 4. 

Social customs. i $ . 

Religion. 1 6. 
Prese7it positio7i of the caste. 

Natitre of the Mardtha insur- 

Mardtha wome7i in past times. 

The Mardtha horseman. 

Cavalry in the field. 

Military administration. 

Sittitig Dharna. 

The i?ifantry. 

Character of the Mardtha 

I. Numeri- 

2. Double 
meaning of 
the term 

Maratha, Mahratta. — The military caste of southern 
India which manned the armies of Sivaji, and of the Peshwa 
and other princes of the Maratha confederacy. In the 
Central Provinces the Marathas numbered 34,000 persons 
in 191 1, of whom Nagpur contained 9000 and Wardha 
8000, while the remainder were distributed over Raipur, 
Hoshangabad and Nimar. In Berar their strength was 
60,000 persons, the total for the combined province being 
thus 94,000. The caste is found in large numbers in 
Bombay and Hyderabad, and in 1901 the India Census 
tables show a total of not less than five million persons 
belonging to it. 

It is difficult to avoid confusion in the use of the term 
Maratha, which signifies both an inhabitant of the area in 
which the Marathi language is spoken, and a member of the 
caste to which the general name has in view of their historical 
importance been specifically applied. The native name for 
the Marathi-speaking country is Maharashtra, which has 
been variously interpreted as * The great country ' or ' The 
country of the Mahars.' ^ A third explanation of the name 
' Sir II. Risley's India Census Report (1901), Ethnographic Appendices, p. 93. 



is from the Rashtrakuta dynasty which was dominant in 
this area for some centuries after A.D. 750. The name 
Rashtrakuta was contracted into Rattha, and with the 
prefix of Maha or Great might evolve into the term Maratha. 
The Rashtrakutas have been conjecturally identified with 
the Rathor Rajputs. The Ndsik Gazetteer^ states that in 
246 I5.C. Maharatta is mentioned as one of the places to 
which Asoka sent an embassy, and Maharashtraka is recorded 
in a Chalukyan inscription of A.D. 580 as including three 
provinces and 99,000 villages. Several other references are 
given in Sir J, Campbell's erudite note, and the name is 
therefore without doubt ancient. But the Marathas as a 
people do not seem to be mentioned before the thirteenth or 
fourteenth century." The antiquity of the name would 
appear to militate against the derivation from the Rashtra- 
kuta dynasty, which did not become prominent till much 
later, and the most probable meaning of Maharashtra 
would therefore seem to be ' The country of the Mahars.' 
Maharatta and INIaratha are presumably derivatives from 

The Marathas are a caste formed from military service, 3. Origin 
and it seems probable that they sprang mainly from the ^^^^ q°^'" 
peasant population of Kunbis, though at what period they the caste, 
were formed into a separate caste has not yet been deter- 
mined. Grant - Duff mentions several of their leading 
families as holding offices under the Muhammadan rulers 
of Bijapur and Ahmadnagar in the fifteenth and sixteenth 
centuries, as the Nimbhalkar, Gharpure and Bhonsla ; ^ and 
presumably their clansmen served in the armies of those 
states. But whether or no the designation of Maratha had 
been previously used by them, it first became prominent 
during the period of Sivaji's guerilla warfare against Aurang- 
zeb. The Marathas claim a Rajput origin, and several of 
their clans have the names of Rajput tribes, as Chauhan, 
Panwar, Solanki and Suryavansi. In 1836 Mr. Enthoven 
states,"* the Sesodia Rana of Udaipur, the head of the purest 
Rajput house, was satisfied from inquiries conducted by an 

' P. 48, footnote. but Blionsla is adopted in deference 

- Ndsik Gazetteer, ibidem. Elphin- to established usage, 
stone's History, p. 246. ^ Bombay Census Report (1901), 

3 The proper spelling is Bhosle, pp. 184-185.' 

200 MARATHA part 

agent that the Bhonslas and certain other families had a 
right to be recognised as Rajputs. Colonel Tod states that 
Sivaji was descended from a Rajput prince Sujunsi, who was 
expelled from Mewar to avoid a dispute about the succession 
about A.D. 1300. Sivaji is shown as 13th in descent 
from Sujunsi. Similarly the Bhonslas of Nagpur were said 
to derive their origin from one Bunbir, who was expelled 
from Udaipur about 1541, having attempted to usurp the 
kingdom.^ As Rajput dynasties ruled in the Deccan for 
some centuries before the Muhammadan conquest, it seems 
reasonable to suppose that a Rajput aristocracy may have 
taken root there. This was Colonel Tod's opinion, who 
wrote : " These kingdoms of the south as well as the north 
were held by Rajput sovereigns, whose offspring, blending 
with the original population, produced that mixed race of 
Marathas inheriting with the names the warlike propensities 
of their ancestors, but who assume the names of their abodes 
as titles, as the Nimalkars, the Phalkias, the Patunkars, 
instead of their tribes of Jadon, Tuar, Pilar, etc." ^ This 
statement would, however, apply only to the leading houses 
and not to the bulk of the Maratha caste, who appear to be 
mainly derived from the Kunbis. In Sholapur the Marathas 
and Kunbis eat together, and the Kunbis are said to be 
bastard Marathas.^ In Satara the Kunbis have the same 
division into 96 clan's as the Marathas have, and many 
of the same surnames.* The writer of the Satdj^a Gazetteer 
says : ^ " The census of 1 8 5 i included the Marathas with 
the Kunbis, from whom they do not form a separate caste. 
Some Maratha families may have a larger strain of northern 
or Rajput blood than the Kunbis, but this is not always the 
case. The distinction between Kunbis and Marathas is 
almost entirely social, the Marathas as a rule being better 
off, and preferring even service as a constable or messenger 
to husbandry." Exactly the same state of affairs prevails 
in the Central Provinces and Berar, where the body of the 
caste are commonly known as Maratha Kunbis. In Bombay 
the Marathas will take daughters from the Kunbis in mar- 
riage for their sons, though they will not give their daughters 

' Rt'ijaslhdfi, i. 269. ^ Ibidem, ii. 420. ^ Sholapur Gazetteer, p. 87. 

"^ Satara Gazetteer, p. 64. *< Ibidem, p. 75. 



in return. But a Kunbi who has got on in the world and 
become wealthy may by sufficient payment get his sons 
married into Maratha families, and even be adopted as a 
member of the caste.' In 1798 Colonel Tone, who com- 
manded a regiment of the Peshwa's army, wrote ^ of the 
Marathas : " The three great tribes which compose the 
Maratha caste are the Kunbi or farmer, the Dhangar or 
shepherd, and the Goala or cowherd ; to this original cause 
may perhaps be ascribed that great simplicity of manner 
which distinguishes the Maratha people." 

It seems then most probable that, as already stated, the\ 
Maratha caste was of purely military origin, constituted from 
the various castes of Maharashtra who adopted military 
service, though some of the leading families may have had 
Rajputs for their ancestors. Sir D. Ibbetson thought that a 
similar relation existed in past times between the Rajpijts^ 
and Jats, the landed aristocracy of the Jat caste being 
gradually admitted to Rajput rank. The Khandaits or 
swordsmen of Orissa are a caste formed in the same 
manner from military service. In the Imperial Gazetteer 
Sir H. Risley suggests that the Maratha people were of 
Scythian origin : 

" The physical type of the people of this region accords 
fairly well with this theory, while the arguments derived 
from language and religion do not seem to conflict with it. 
. . . On this view the wide-ranging forays of the Marathas, 
tlieir guerilla methods of warfare, their unscrupulous deal- 
ings with friend and foe, their genius for intrigue and their 
consequent failure to build up an enduring dominion, might 
well be regarded as inherited from their Scythian ancestors." 

In the Central Provinces the Marathas are divided into 4- i^-^o- 
96 exogamous clans, known as the Chhanava Kule, which %^^^^_ 
marry with one another. During the period when the 
Bhonsia family were rulers of Nagpur they constituted a 
sort of inner circle, consisting of seven of the leading clans, 
with whom alone they intermarried ; these are known as the 
Satghare or Seven Houses, and consist of the Bhonsia, 
Gujar, Ahirrao, Mahadik, Sirke, Palke and Mohte clans. 

^ Bombay Census Report (1907), ^ J^etter on the Marathas (India 

ibidem. Office Tracts). 

202 MAR AT HA part 

These houses at one time formed an endogamous group, 
marrying only among themselves, but recently the restriction 
has been relaxed, and they have arranged marriages with 
other Maratha families. It may be noted that the present 
representatives of the Bhonsla family are of the Gujar clan to 
which the last Raja of Nagpur, Raghuji III., belonged prior 
to his adoption. Several of the clans, as already noted, 
have Rajput sept names ; and some are considered to be 
derived from those of former ruling dynasties ; as Chalke, 
from the Chalukya Rajput kings of the Deccan and Carnatic; 
More, who may represent a branch of the great Maurya 
dynasty of northern India ; Salunke, perhaps derived from 
the Solanki kings of Gujarat ; and Yadav, the name of the 
kings of Deogiri or Daulatabad.^ Others appear to be 
named after animals or natural objects, as Sinde from sindi 
the date-palm tree, Ghorpade from ghorpad the iguana ; or 
to be of a titular nature, as Kale black, Pandhre white, 
Bhagore a renegade, Jagthap renowned, and so on. The 
More, Nimbhalkar, Ghatge, Mane, Ghorpade, Dafle, Jadav 
and Bhonsla clans are the oldest, and held prominent posi- 
tions in the old Muhammadan kingdoms of Bijapur and 
Ahmadnagar. The Nimbhalkar family were formerly Panwar 
Rajputs, and took the name of Nimbhalkar from their 
ancestral village Nimbalik. The Ghorpade family are an 
offshoot of the Bhonslas, and obtained their present name 
from the exploit of one of their ancestors, who scaled a fort 
in the Konkan, previously deemed impregnable, by passing 
a cord round the body of a ghorpad or iguana.^ A notice- 
able trait of these Maratha houses is the fondness with 
which they clung to the small estates or villages in the 
Deccan in which they had originally held the office of a patel 
or village headman as a zvatan or hereditary right, even after 
they had carved out for themselves principalities and states 
in other parts of India. The present Bhonsla Raja takes 
his title from the village of Deor in the Poona country. In 
former times we read of the Raja of Satara clinging to the 
watans he had inherited from Sivaji after he had lost his 
crown in all but the name ; Sindhia was always termed 

^ Saldra Gazetteer, p. 75- 
2 Grant-Duff, 4th edition (1878), vol. i. pp. 70-72. 


patcl or village headman in the revenue accounts of the 
villages he acquired in Nimfir ; while it is said that Ilolkar 
and the Panwar of Dhar fought desperately after the British 
conquest to recover the pateli rights of Deccan villages 
which had belonged to their ancestors.^ 

Besides the 96 clans there are now in the Central 5. Other 
Provinces some local subcastes who occupy a lower position ^"visions 
and do not intermarry with the Marathas proper. Among 
these are the Deshkar or ' Residents of the country ' ; the 
Waindesha or those of Berar and Khandesh ; the Gangthade 
or those dwelling on the banks of the Godavari and Wain- 
ganga ; and the Ghatmathe or residents of the Mahadeo 
plateau in Berar. It is also stated that the Marathas are 
divided into the K/iasi or ' pure ' and the KJiarcJii or the 
descendants of handmaids. In Bombay the latter are known 
as the Akarmashes or i i vidshas, meaning that as twelve 
mdshas make a tola, a twelfth part of them is alloy. 

A man must not marry in his own clan or that of his 6. Social 
mother. A sister's son may be married to a brother's 
daughter, but not vice versa. Girls are commonly married 
between five and twelve years of age, and the ceremony re- 
sembles that of the Kunbis. The bridegroom goes to the 
bride's house riding on horseback and covered with a black 
blanket. When a girl first becomes mature, usually after 
marriage, the Marathas perform the Shantik ceremony. The 
girl is secluded for four days, after which she is bathed and 
puts on new clothes and dresses her hair and a feast is given 
to the caste-fellows. Sometimes the bridegroom comes and 
is asked whether he has visited his wife before she became 
mature, and if he confesses that he has done so a small 
fine is imposed on him. Such cases are, however, believed 
to be rare. The Marathas proper forbid widow-marriage, 
but the lower groups allow it. If a maiden is seduced by 
one of the caste she may be married to him as if she were a 
widow, a fine being imposed on her family ; but if she goes 
wrong with an outsider she is finally expelled. Divorce 
is not ostensibly allowed but may be concluded by agree- 
ment between the parties. A wife who commits adultery is 
cast off and expelled from the caste. The caste burn their 

' Forsyth, Ni/iiar Settlement Report. 

204 MARATHA part 

dead when they can afford it and perform the shrdddh 
ceremony in the month of Kunwdr (September), when 
oblations are offered to the dead and a feast is given to the 
caste-fellows. Sometimes a tomb is erected as a memorial 
to the dead, but without his name, and is surmounted usually 
by an image of Mahadeo. The caste eat the flesh of clean 
animals and of fowls and wild pig, and drink liquor. Their 
rules about food are liberal like those of the Rajputs, a too 
great stringency being no doubt in both cases incompatible 
with the exigencies of military service. They make no 
difference between food cooked with or without water, and 
will accept either from a Brahman, Rajput, Tirole Kunbi, 
Lingayat Bania or Phulmali. 

The Marathas proper observe the parda system with 
regard to their women, and will go to the well and draw 
water themselves rather than permit their wives to do 
so. The women wear ornaments only of gold or glass 
and not of silver or any baser metal. They are not per- 
mitted to spin cotton as being an occupation of the lower 
classes. The women are tattooed in the centre of the fore- 
head with a device resembling a trident. The men com- 
monly wear a turban made of many folds of cloth twisted 
into a narrow rope and large gold rings with pearls in the 
upper part of the ear. Like the Rajputs they often have 
j their hair long and wear beards and whiskers. They assume 
j the sacred thread and invest a boy with it when he is seven 
or eight years old or on his marriage. Till then they let the 
hair grow on the front of his head, and when the thread 
ceremony is performed they cut this off and let the cJioti or 
scalp-lock grow at the back. In appearance the men are 
often tall and well-built and of a Hght wheat-coloured 
7. Reii- The principal deity of the Marathas is Khandoba, a 

sio'i- warrior incarnation of Mahadeo. He is supposed to have 
been born in a field of millet near Poona and to have led the 
people against the Muhammadans in early times. He had a 
watch-dog who warned him of the approach of his enemies, 
and he is named after the kJianda or sword which he always 
carried. In Bombay^ he is represented on horseback with 
^ Bombay Gazetteer, vol. xviii. part i. pp. 413-414. 


two women, one of the Bania caste, his wedded wife, in front 
of him, and another, a Uhangarin, his kept mistress, behind. 
He is considered the tutelary deity of the Maratha country, 
and his symbol is a bag of turmeric powder known as bJianddr. 
The caste worship Khandoba on Sundays with rice, flowers 
and incense, and also on the 21st day of Magh (January), 
which is called CJiaiupa SasJitJii and is his special festival. 
On this day they will catch hold of any dog, and after adorn- 
ing him with flowers and turmeric give him a good feed 
and let him go again. The Marathas are generally kind to 
dogs and will not injure them. At the Dasahra festival the 
caste worship their horses and swords and go out into the 
field to see a blue-jay in memory of the fact that the Maratha 
marauding expeditions started on Dasahra. On coming back 
they distribute to each other leaves of the shami tree 
[BaiiJiinia raceinosd) as a substitute for gold. It was formerly 
held to be fitting among the Hindus that the warrior 
should ride a horse (geldings being unknown) and the 
zamindar or landowner a mare, as more suitable to a man 
of peace. The warriors celebrated their Dasahra, and 
worshipped their horses on the tenth day of the light fort- 
night of Kunwdr (September), while the cultivators held their 
festival and worshipped their mares on the ninth day. It is 
recorded that the great Raghuji Bhonsla, the first Raja of 
Nagpur, held his Dasahra on the ninth day, in order to 
proclaim the fact that he was by family an agriculturist and 
only incidentally a man of arms.' 

The Marathas present the somewhat melancholy spec- 8. Present 
tacle of an impoverished aristocratic class attempting to fhT caste° 
maintain some semblance of their former position, though 
they no longer have the means to do so. They flourished 
during two or three centuries of almost continuous war, and 
became a wealthy and powerful caste, but they find a diffi- 
culty in turning their hands to the arts of peace. Sir 
R. Craddock writes of them in Nagpur : 

" Among the Marathas a large number represent connec- 
tions of the Bhonsla family, related by marriage or by 
illegitimate descent to that house. A considerable propor- 
tion of the Government political pensioners are Marathas. 

^ Elliott, HoshatigabCid Settlement Report. 

2o6 MAR AT HA i'art 

Many of them own villages or hold tenant land, but as a 
rule they are extravagant in their living ; and several of the 
old Maratha nobility have fallen very much in the world. 
Pensions diminish with each generation, but the expenditure 
shows no corresponding decrease. The sons are brought 
up to no employment and the daughters are married with 
lavish pomp and show. The native army does not much 
attract them, and but few are educated well enough for the 
dignified posts in the civil employ of Government. It is a 
question whether their pride of race will give way before 
the necessity of earning their livelihood soon enough for 
them to maintain or regain some of their former position. 
Otherwise those with the largest landed estates may be saved 
by the intervention of Government, but the rest must gradu- 
ally deteriorate till the dignities of their class have become 
a mere memory. The humbler members of the caste find 
their employment as petty contractors or traders, private 
servants, Government peons, sowars, and hangers-on in the 
retinue of the more important families. 

" What ^ little display his means afford a Maratha still 
tries to maintain. Though he may be clad in rags at home, 
he has a spare dress which he himself washes and keeps with 
great care and puts on when he goes to pay a visit. He 
will hire a boy to attend him with a lantern at night, or to 
take caVe of his shoes when he goes to a friend's house and 
hold them before him when he comes out. Well-to-do 
Marathas have usually in their service a Brahman clerk known 
as divdnji or minister, who often takes advantage of his 
master's want of education to defraud him. A Maratha 
seldom rises early or goes out in the morning. He will get 
up at seven or eight o'clock, a late hour for a Hindu, and 
attend to business if he has any or simply idle about chewing 
or smoking tobacco and talking till ten o'clock. He will then 
bathe and dress in a freshly-washed cloth and bow before 
the family gods which the priest has already worshipped. 
He will dine, chew betel and smoke tobacco and enjoy a 
short midday rest. Rising at three, he will play cards, dice 
or chess, and in the evening will go out walking or riding or 

' The following description is taken Sir II. II, Risley's India Census Report 
from the Ethnographic Appendices to of 190 1. 


pay a visit to a friend. He will come back at eight or nine 
and go to bed at ten or eleven. But Marathas who have 
estates to manage lead regular, fairly busy lives." 

Sir D. Ibbetson drew attention to the fact that the rising 9. Nature 
of the Marathas against the Muhammadans was almost the ^^a'rtha 
only instance in Indian history of what might correctly be insurrec- 
called a really national movement. In other cases, as that 
of the Sikhs, though the essential motive was perhaps of 
the same nature, it was obscured by the fact that its osten- 
sible tendency was religious. The gurus of the Sikhs did 
not call on their followers to fight for their country but for a 
new religion. This was only in accordance with the Hindu 
intellect, to which the idea of nationality has hitherto been 
foreign, while its protests against both alien and domestic 
tyrannies tend to take the shape of a religious revolt. A 
similar tendency is observable even in the case of the 
Marathas, for the rising was from its inception largely 
engineered by the Maratha Brahmans, who on its success 
hastened to annex for themselves a leading position in the 
new Poona state. And it has been recorded that in calling 
his countrymen to arms, Sivaji did not ask them to defend 
their hearths and homes or wives and children, but to rally 
for the protection of the sacred persons of Brahmans and 

Although the Marathas have now in imitation of the 10. 
Rajputs and Muhammadans adopted the parda system, this wo^meatn 
is not a native custom, and women have played quite an past times, 
important part in their history. The women of the house- 
hold have also exercised a considerable influence and their 
opinions are treated with respect by the men. Several 
instances occur in which women of high rank have success- 
fully acted as governors and administrators. In the Bhonsla 
family the Princess Baka Bfii, widow of Raghuji II., is a 
conspicuous instance, while the famous or notorious Rani of 
Jhansi is another case of a Maratha lady who led her troops 
in person, and was called the best man on the native side 
in the Mutiny. 

This article may conclude with one or two extracts to n. The 
give an idea of the way in which the Maratha soldiery took i^orseman 
the field. Grant Duff describes the troopers as follows : 

in the 

208 MARATHA part 

"The Maratha horsemen are commonly dressed in a 
pair of hght breeches covering the knee, a turban which 
many of them fasten by passing a fold of it under the chin, 
a frock of quilted cotton, and a cloth round the waist, with 
which they generally gird on their swords in preference to 
securing them with their belts. The horseman is armed 
with a sword and shield ; a proportion in each body carry 
matchlocks, but the great national weapon is the spear, in the 
use of which and the management of their horse they evince 
both grace and dexterity. The spearmen have generally a 
sword, and sometimes a shield ; but the latter is unwieldy 
and only carried in case the spear should be broken. The 
trained spearmen may always be known by their riding very 
long, the ball of the toe touching the stirrup ; some of the 
matchlockmen and most of the Brahmans ride very short 
and ungracefully. The bridle consists of a single headstall 
of cotton-rope, with a small but very severe flexible bit." 
12. Cavalry The following account of the Maratha cavalry is given 

in General Hislop's Summary of tJie MardtJia and Pinddri 
Campaigns of i 8 1 7- 1 8 1 9 : 

" The Marathas possess extraordinary skill in horseman- 
ship, and so intimate an acquaintance with their horses, that 
they can make their animals do anything, even in full speed, 
in halting, wheeling, etc.; they likewise use the spear with 
remarkable dexterity, sometimes in full gallop, grasping 
their spears short and quickly sticking the point in the 
ground ; still holding the handles, they turn their horse 
suddenly round it, thus performing on the point of a spear 
as on a pivot the same circle round and round again. Their 
horses likewise never leave the particular class or body to 
which they belong ; so that if the rider should be knocked 
off, away gallops the animal after its fellows, never separating 
itself from the main body. Every Maratha brings his own 
horse and his own arms with him to the field, and possibly 
in the interest they possess in this private equipment we 
shall find their usual shyness to expose themselves or even 
to make a bold vigorous attack. But if armies or troops 
could be frightened by appearances these horses of the 
Marathas would dishearten the bravest, actually darkening 
the plains with their numbers and clouding the horizon with 


dust for miles and miles around. A little fighting, however, 
goes a great way with them, as with most others of the 
native powers in India." 

On this account the Marathas were called razdJi-bazdn 
or lance-wielders. One Muhammadan historian says : " They 
so use the lance that no cavalry can cope with them. Some 
20,000 or 30,000 lances are held up against their enemy 
so close together as not to leave a span between their heads. 
If horsemen try to ride them down the points of the spears 
are levelled at the assailants and they are unhorsed. While 
cavalry are charging them they strike their lances against 
each other and the noise so frightens the horses of the 
enemy that they turn round and bolt." ^ The battle-cries of 
the Marathas were, ' Har^ Har Mahddeo,' and ' Gopdl, Gopdl! ^ 

An interesting description of the internal administration 13. 
of the Maratha cavalry is contained in the letter on the ^"^'''"^7 
Marathas by Colonel Tone already quoted. But his account tration. 
must refer to a period of declining efficiency and cannot 
represent the military system at its best : 

" In the great scale of rank and eminence which is one 
peculiar feature of Hindu institutions the Maratha holds a 
very inferior situation, being just removed one degree above 
those castes which are considered absolutely unclean. He 
is happily free from the rigorous observances as regards 
food which fetter the actions of the higher castes. He can 
eat of all kinds of food with the exception of beef ; can 
dress his meal at all times and seasons ; can partake of all 
victuals dressed by any caste superior to his own ; washing 
and praying are not indispensable in his order and may be 
practised or omitted at pleasure. The three great tribes ! 
which compose the Maratha caste are the Kunbi or farmer, 
the Dhangar or shepherd and the Goala or cowherd ; to 
this original cause may perhaps be ascribed that great 
simplicity of manner which distinguishes the Maratha 
people. Homer mentions princesses going in person to the 
fountain to wash their household linen. I can affirm having 
seen the daughters of a prince who was able to bring an 
army into the field much larger than the whole Greek con- 

* Irvine's Army of the JMughah, - Ibido/i, p. 232. Gopal is a name 

p. 82. of Krishna. 


2 1 o MA RA THA part 

federacy, making bread with their own hands and otherwise 
employed in the ordinary business of domestic housewifery. 
I have seen one of the most powerful chiefs of the Empire, 
after a day of action, assisting in kindling a fire to keep 
himself warm during the night, and sitting on the ground 
on a spread saddle-cloth dictating to his secretaries. 

" The chief military force of the Marathas consists in 
their cavalry, which may be divided into four distinct 
classes : First the Khasi Pagah or household forces of the 
prince ; these are always a fine well-appointed body, the 
horses excellent, being the property of the Sirkar, who gives 
a monthly allowance to each trooper of the value of about 
eight rupees. The second class are the cavalry furnished 
by the Silladars,^ who contract to supply a certain number 
of horse on specified terms, generally about Rs. 35a month, 
including the trooper's pay. The third and most numerous 
description are volunteers, who join the camp bringing with 
them their own horse and accoutrements ; their pay is 
generally from Rs. 40 to Rs. 50 a month in proportion to 
the value of their horse. There is a fourth kind of native 
cavalry called Pindaris, who are mere marauders, serve with- 
out any pay and subsist but by plunder, a fourth part 
of which they give to the Sirkar ; but these are so very 
licentious a body that they are not employed but in one or 
two of the Maratha services. 

" The troops collected in this manner are under no dis- 
cipline whatever and engage for no specific period, but quit 
the army whenever they please ; with the exception of 
furnishing a picquet while in camp, they do no duty but in 
the day of battle. 

" The Maratha cavalry is always irregularly and badly 
paid ; the household troops scarcely ever receive money, but 
are furnished with a daily allowance of coarse flour and 
.some other ingredients from the bazar which just enable 
them to exist. The Silladar is very nearly as badly 

1 Lit. armour-bearers. Colonel kind of coat -of- mail worn by the 

Tone writes : " I apprehend from the Maratha horsemen, known as a betita, 

meaning of this term that it was for- which resembles our ancient hauberk ; 

merly the custom of this nation, as it is made of chain work, interlinked 

was the case in Europe, to appear in throughout, fits close to the body and 

armour. I have frequently seen a adapts itself to all its motions." 


situated. In his arrangements with the State he has allotted 
to him a certain proportion of jungle where he pastures his 
cattle ; here he and his family reside, and his sole occupa- 
tion when not on actual service is increasing his Pagah or 
troop by breeding out of his marcs, of which the Maratha 
cavalry almost entirely consist. There are no people in the 
world who understand the method of rearing and multiply- 
ing the breed of cattle equal to the Marathas. It is by no 
means uncommon for a Sillildar to enter a service with one 
mare and in a {qv^ years be able to muster a very respect- 
able Pagah. They have many methods of rendering the 
animal prolific ; they back their colts much earlier than v/e 
do and they are consequently more valuable as they come 
sooner on the cfTective strength. 

" When called upon for actual service the Silladar is 
obliged to give muster. Upon this occasion it is always 
necessary that the Brahman who takes it should have a 
bribe ; and indeed the Hazri, as the muster is termed, is of 
such a nature that it could not pass by any fair or honour- 
able means. Not only any despicable tattiis are substituted 
in the place of horses but animals are borrowed to fill up 
the complement. Heel-ropes and grain-bags are produced 
as belonging to cattle supposed to be at grass ; in short 
every mode is practised to impose on the Sirkar, which 
in turn reimburses itself by irregular and bad payments ; 
for it is always considered if the Silladars receive six 
months' arrears out of the year that they are exceedingly 
well paid. The Volunteers who join the camp are still 
worse situated, as they have no collective force, and money 
is very seldom given in a Maratha State without being 
extorted. In one word, the native cavalry are the worst- 
paid body of troops in the world. But there is another 
grand error in this mode of raising troops which is pro- 
ductive of the worst effects. Every man in a Maratha 
camp is totally independent ; he is the proprietor of the 
horse he rides, which he is never inclined to risk, since with- 
out it he can get no service. This single circumstance 
destroys all enterprise and spirit in the soldier, whose sole 
business, instead of being desirous of distinguishing himself, 
is to keep out of the way of danger ; for notwithstanding 


212 MARATHA part 

every horseman on entering a service has a certain value 
put upon his horse, yet should he lose it even in action he 
never receives any compensation or at least none propor- 
tioned to his loss. If at any time a Silladar is disgusted 
with the service he can go away without meeting any 
molestation even though in the face of an enemy. In fact 
the pay is in general so shamefully irregular that a man is 
justified in resorting to any measure, however apparently 
unbecoming, to attain it. It is also another very curious 
circumstance attending this service that many great Silladars 
have troops in the pay of two or three chiefs at the same 
time, who are frequently at open war with each other. 
14. Sitting " To recover an arrear of pay there is but one known 

mode which is universally adopted in all native services, the 
Mughal as well as the Maratha ; this is called Dharna,^ 
which consists in putting the debtor, be he who he will, into 
a state of restraint or imprisonment, until satisfaction be 
given or the money actually obtained. Any person in the 
Sirkar's service has a right to demand his pay of the Prince 
or his minister, and to sit in Dharna if it be not given ; nor 
will he meet with the least hindrance in doing so ; for none 
would obey an order that interfered with the Dharna, as it 
is a common cause ; nor does the soldier incur the slightest 
charge of mutiny for his conduct, or suffer in the smallest 
manner in the opinion of his Chief, so universal is the 
custom. The Dharna is sometimes carried to very violent 
lengths and may either be executed on the Prince or his 
minister indifferently, with the same effect ; as the Chief 
always makes it a point of honour not to eat or drink while 
his Diwan is in duress ; sometimes the Dharna lasts for 
many days, during which time the party upon whom it is 
exercised is not suffered to eat or drink or wash or pray, or 
in short is not permitted to move from the spot where he 
sits, which is frequently bare-headed in the sun, until the 
money or security be given ; so general is this mode of 
recovery that I suppose the Maratha Chiefs may be said to 
be nearly one-half of their time in a state of Dharna. 

' In order to obtain redress by would be held to have committed a 

Dharna the creditor or injured person mortal sin and would be haunted by his 

would sit starvinp; himself outside his ghost ; see also article on Ehat. The 

debtor's door, and if he died the latter accounthere given must be exaggerated. 



"In the various Maratha services there arc very little 15. The 
more than a bare majority who are Marathas by caste, and '" ^""^^" 
very few instances occur of their ever entering into the 
infantry at all. The sepoys in the pay of the different 
princes are recruited in Hindustan, and principally of the 
Rajput and Purbia caste ; these are perhaps the finest race 
of men in the world for figure and appearance ; of lofty 
stature, strong, graceful and athletic ; of acute feelings, 
high military pride, quick, apprehensive, brave, prudent and 
economic ; at the same time it must be confessed they are 
impatient of discipline, and naturally inclined to mutiny. 
They are mere soldiers of fortune and serve only for their 
pay. There are also a great number of Musalmans who 
serv5 in the different Maratha armies, some of whom have 
very great commands. 

" The Maratha cavalry at times make very long and 16. Char- 
rapid marches, in which they do not suffer themselves to ^^^^^^ 
be interrupted by the monsoon or any violence of weather. Maratha 
In very pressing exigencies it is incredible the fatigue a, 
Maratha horseman will endure ; frequently many days pass 
without his enjoying one regular meal, but he depends 
entirely for subsistence on the different corn-fields through 
which the army passes : a {q.\n heads of juari, which he 
chafes in his hands while on horseback, will serve him for 
the day ; his horse subsists on the same fare, and with 
the addition of opium, which the Marathas frequently 
administer to their cattle, is enabled to perform incredible 

The above analysis of the Maratha troops indicates that 
their real character was that of freebooting cavalry, largely 
of the same type as, though no doubt greatly superior in tone 
and discipline to the Pindaris. Like them they lived by 
plundering the country. " The Marathas," Elphinstone re- 
marked, " are excellent foragers. Every morning at day- 
break long lines of men on small horses and ponies are seen 
issuing from their camps in all directions, who return before 
night loaded with fodder for the cattle, with firewood torn 
down from houses, and grain dug up from the pits where it 
had been concealed by the villagers ; while other detach- 
ments go to a distance for some days and collect proper- 

214 MARATHA part II 

tionately larger supplies of the same kind." ^ They could 
thus dispense with a commissariat, and being nearly all 
mounted were able to make extraordinarily long marches, 
and consequently to carry out effectively surprise attacks 
and when repulsed to escape injury in the retreat. Even at 
PanTpat where their largest regular force took the field under 
Sadasheo Rao Bhao, he had 70,000 regular and irregular 
cavalry and only 15,000 infantry, of whom 9000 were hired 
sepoys under a Muhammadan leader. The Marathas were 
at their best in attacking the slow-moving and effeminate 
Mughal armies, while during their period of national ascend- 
ancy under the Peshwa there was no strong military power 
in India which could oppose their forays. When they were 
by the skill of their opponents at length brought to a set 
battle, their fighting qualities usually proved to be distinctly 
poor. At Panipat they lost the day by a sudden panic and 
flight after Ibrahim Khan Gardi had obtained for them a 
decided advantage ; while at Argaon and Assaye their per- 
formances were contemptible. After the recovery from 
Panipat and the rise of the independent Maratha states, the 
assistance of European officers was invoked to discipline 
and train the soldiery.^ 

^ Elphinstone's Histojy, 7th ed. p. 748. ^ Ibidem, p. 753. 


\Bibliop-aphy : Mr. R. Greeven's Knights of the Broom, Benares, 1894 
(pamphlet) ; Mr. Crooke's Tribes and Castes, art. lihangi ; Sir H. Risley's 
Tribes and Castes, art. Ilari ; Sir K. Maclagan's Punjab Censtts Report, 1S91 
(Sweeper Sects) ; Sir D. Ibbetson's Punjab Census Report, 1881 (art. Chuhra) ; 
Bombay Gazetteer, Hindus of Gujarat, Mr. Bhimbhai Kirparam.] 


1. Introductory notice. 10. Childbirth. 

2. Caste stibdivisiojis. 1 1 . Treatment of the mothe?: 

3. Social organisation. 1 2. Protcctijtg the lives of children. 

4. Caste j>iinisJuncnts. 13. I7ifa?}tile diseases. 

5. Admission of outsiders. 14. Religio?i. Valmlki. 

6. Marriage customs. I 5 . Ldlbeg. 

7. Disposal of the dead. 16. Adoption of foreigJi religions. 

8. Deinces for procuring children. 17. Social status. 

9. Divi7tatio7i of sex. 18. Occupation. 

19. Occupation {continued). 

Mehtar, Bhang-i, Hari,^ Dom, Lalbegi. — The caste of i imro- 
svveepers and scavengers. In 191 1 persons returning them- notice." 
selves as Mehtar, Bhangi and Dom were separately classified, 
and the total of all three was only 30,000. In this 
Province they generally confine themselves to their hereditary 
occupation of scavenging, and are rarely met with outside 
the towns and large villages. In most localities the supply 
of sweepers does not meet the demand. The case is quite 
different in northern India, where the sweeper castes — the 
Chuhra in the Punjab, the Bhangi in the United Provinces 
and the Dom in Bengal — are all of them of great numerical 
strength. With these castes only a small proportion are 
employed on scavengers' work and the rest arc labourers 

^ Some information has been obtained from a paper by Mr. Ilarbans Rai, 
Clerk of Court, Damoh. 


2i6 MEHTAR part 

like the Chamars and Mahars of the Central Provinces. 
The present sweeper caste is made up of diverse elements, 
and the name Mehtar, generally applied to it, is a title 
meaning a prince or leader. Its application to the caste, 
the most abject and despised in the Hindu community, is 
perhaps partly ironical ; but all the low castes have honorific 
titles, which are used as a method of address either from 
ordinary politeness or by those requiring some service, on the 
principle, as the Hindus say, that you may call an ass your 
uncle if you want him to do something for you. The regular 
caste of sweepers in northern India are the Bhangis, whose 
name is derived by Mr. Crooke from the Sanskrit bhanga^ 
hemp, in allusion to the drunken habits of the caste. In 
support of this derivation he advances the Beria custom of 
calling their leaders Bhangi or hemp-drinker as a title of 
honour.^ In Mr. Greeven's account also, Lalbeg, the patron 
saint of the sweepers, is described as intoxicated with the 
hemp drug on two occasions." Mr. Bhimbhai Kirparam 
suggests ^ that Bhangia means broken, and is applied to the 
sweepers because they split bamboos. In Kaira, he states, the 
regular trade of the Bhangias is the plaiting of baskets and 
other articles of split bamboo, and in that part of Gujarat if 
a Koli is asked to split a bamboo he will say, * Am I to do 
Bhangia's work ? ' The derivation from the hemp-plant is, 
however, the more probable. In the Punjab, sweepers are 
known as Chuhra, and this name has been derived from 
their business of collecting and sweeping up scraps {chiira- 
jhdrna). Similarly, in Bombay they are known as Olganas 
or scrap-eaters. The Bengal name Hari is supposed to 
come from haddi, a bone ; the Hari is the bone-gatherer, and 
was familiar to early settlers of Calcutta under the quaint 
designation of the ' harry-wench.' * In the Central Provinces 
sections of the Ghasia, Mahar and Dom castes will do 
sweepers' work, and are therefore amalgamated with the 
Mehtars. The caste is thus of mixed constitution, and also 
forms a refuge for persons expelled from their own societies 
for social offences. But though called by different names, 

1 Rajendra Lai Mitra, (juoted in ^ Oj>. cit. p. 334. 

art. on ]5cria. * Gieeven, p. 66, quoting from 

2 Greeven, op. cit. pp. 29, 33. Echoes of Old Calcutta. 


the sweeper community in most provinces appears to have 
the same stock of traditions and legends. The name of 
Mehtar is now generally employed, and has therefore been 
taken as the designation of the caste. 

Mr. Greeven gives seven main subdivisions, of which 2. Caste 

. h 

the Lalbegis or the followers of Lalbeg, the patron saint of ^"yjsiong 
sweepers, are the most important. The Rawats appear to 
be an aristocratic subdivision of the Lalbegis, their name 
being a corruption of the Sanskrit Rajputra, a prince. The 
Shaikh Mehtars are the only real Muhammadan branch, for 
though the Lalbegis worship a Musalman saint they remain 
Hindus. The Haris or bone-gatherers, as already stated, 
are the sweepers of Bengal. The Helas may either be 
those who carry baskets of sweepings, or may derive their 
name from Jiela, a cry ; and in that case they are so called 
as performing the office of town-criers, a function which the 
Bhangi usually still discharges in northern India.^ The other 
subcastes in his list are the Dhanuks or bowmen and the 
Bansphors or cleavers of bamboos. In the Central Provinces 
the Shaikh Mehtars belong principally to Nagpur, and 
another subcaste, the Makhia, is also found in the Maratha 
Districts and in Berar ; those branches of the Ghasia and 
Dom castes who consent to do scavengers' work now form 
separate subcastes of Mehtars in the same locality, and 
another group are called Narnolia, being said to take their 
name from a place called Narnol in the Punjab. The 
Lalbegis are often considered here as Muhammadans rather 
than Hindus, and bury their dead. In Saugor the sweepers 
are said to be divided into Lalbegis or Muhammadans and 
Doms or Hindus. The Lalbegi, Dom or Dumar and the 
Hela are the principal subcastes of the north of the Province, 
and Chuhra Mehtars are found in Chhattlsgarh. Each sub- 
caste is divided into a number of exogamous sections named 
after plants and animals. 

In Benares each subdivision, Mr. Greeven states, has 3. Social 
an elaborate and quasi -military organisation. Thus the 
Lalbegi sweepers have eight companies or berJias, consisting 
of the sweepers working in different localities ; these are 
the Sadar, or those employed by private residents in canton- 

^ Crooke, op. cit. 


2i8 MEHTAR part 

ments ; the Kali Paltan, who serve the Bengal Infantry ; 
the Lai Kurti, or Red-coats, who are employed by the 
British Infantry ; the Teshan (station), or those engaged at 
the three railway stations of the town ; the Shahar, or 
those of the city ; the Ramnagar, taking their name from 
the residence of the Maharaja of Benares, whom they serve.; 
the Kothlwal, or Bungalow men, who belong to residents 
in the civil lines ; and lastly the Genereli, who are the 
descendants of sweepers employed at the military head- 
quarters when Benares was commanded by a General of 
Division. This special organisation is obviously copied 
from that of the garrison and is not found in other localities, 
but deserves mention for its own interest. All the eight 
companies are commanded by a Brigadier, the local head 
of the caste, whose office is now almost hereditary ; his 
principal duty is to give two dinners to the whole caste on 
election, with sweetmeats to the value of fourteen rupees. 
Each company has four officers — a Jamadar or president, a 
Munsif or spokesman, a Chaudhari or treasurer and a Naib 
or summoner. These offices are also practically hereditary, 
if the candidate entitled by birth can afford to give a dinner 
to the whole subcaste and a turban to each President of a 
company. All the other members of the company are 
designated as Sipahis or soldiers. A caste dispute is first 
considered by the inferior officers of each company, who 
report their view to the President ; he confers with the other 
Presidents, and when an agreement has been reached the 
sentence is formally confirmed by the Brigadier. When 
any dispute arises, the aggrieved party, depositing a process- 
fee of a rupee and a quarter, addresses the officers of his 
company. Unless the question is so trivial that it can be 
settled without caste punishments, the President fixes a time 
and place, of which notice is given to the messengers of 
the other companies ; each of these receives a fee of one 
and a quarter annas and informs all the Sipahis in his 
4. Caste Only worthy members of the caste, Mr. Greeven con- 

punish- tjmues, are allowed to sit on the tribal matting and smoke the 
tribal pipe (huqqa). The proceedings begin with the out- 
spreading (usually symbolic) of a carpet and the smoking of 



a water-pipe handed in turn to each clansman. For this 
purpose the members sit on the carpet in three Hnes, the 
officers in front and the private soldiers behind. The parties 
and their witnesses are heard and examined, and a decision 
is pronounced. The punishments imposed consist of fines, 
'Compulsory dinners and expulsion from the caste ; expulsion 
being inflicted for failure to comply with an order of fine or 
entertainment. The formal method of outcasting consists 
in seating the culprit on the ground and drawing the 
tribal mat over his head, from which the turban is removed ; 
after this the messengers of the eight companies inflict a 
few taps with slippers and birch brooms. It is alleged that 
unfaithful women were formerly tied naked to trees and 
flogged with birch brooms, but that owing to the fatal 
results that occasionally followed such punishment, as in 
the case of the five kicks among Chamars (tanners) and the 
scourging with the clothes line which used to prevail among 
Dhobis (washermen), the caste has now found it expedient 
to abandon these practices. When an outcaste is readmitted 
on submission, whether by paying a fine or giving a dinner, 
he is seated apart from the tribal mat and does penance by 
holding his ears with his hands and confessing his offence. 
A new huqqa, which he supplies, is carried round by the 
messenger, and a few whiffs are taken by all the officers and 
Sipahis in turn. The messenger repeats to the culprit the 
council's order, and informs him that should he again offend 
his punishment will be doubled. With this warning he 
hands him the water-pipe, and after smoking this the 
offender is admitted to the carpet and all is forgotten in a 
banquet at his expense. 

The sweepers will freely admit outsiders into their 5. Admis- 
community, and the caste forms a refuge for persons o°t"iders. 
expelled from their own societies for sexual or moral 
offences. Various methods are employed for the initiation 
of a neophyte ; in some places he, or more frequently she, 
is beaten with a broom made of wood taken from a bier, 
and has to give a feast to the caste ; in others a slight 
wound is made in his body and the blood of another sweeper 
is allowed to flow on to it so that they mix ; and a glass of 
sherbet and sugar, known as the cup of nectar, is prepared 



by the priest and all the members of the committee put 
their fingers into it, after which it is given to the candidate 
to drink ; or he has to drink water mixed with cowdung 
into which the caste-people have dipped their little fingers, 
and a lock of his hair is cut off. Or he fasts all day at the 
shrine of Lalbeg and in the evening 'drinks sherbet after* 
burning incense at the shrine ; and gives three feasts, the 
first on the bank of a tank, the second in his courtyard and 
the third in his house, representing his gradual purification 
for membership ; at this last he puts a little water into 
every man's cup and receives from him a piece of bread, 
and so becomes a fully qualified caste-man. Owing to this 
reinforcement from higher castes, and perhaps also to their 
flesh diet, the sweepers are not infrequently taller and stronger 
as well as lighter in colour than the average Hindu. 
6. Mar- The marriage ceremony in the Central Provinces follows 

the ordinary Hindu ritual. The lagan or paper fixing the 
date of the wedding is written by a Brahman, who seats 
himself at some distance from the sweeper's house and 
composes the letter. This paper must not be seen by the 
bride or bridegroom, nor may its contents be read to them, 
as it is believed that to do so would cause them to fall ill 
during the ceremony. Before the bridegroom starts for the 
wedding his mother waves a wooden pestle five times over 
his head, passing it between his legs and shoulders. After 
this the bridegroom breaks two lamp-saucers with his right 
foot, steps over the rice-pounder and departs for the bride's 
house without looking behind him. The sawdsas or relatives 
of the parties usually officiate at the ceremony, but the well- 
to-do sometimes engage a Brahman, who sits at a distance 
from the house and calls out his instructions. When a 
man wishes to marry a widow he must pay six rupees to 
the caste committee and give a feast to the community. 
Divorce is i:)crmitted for incompatibility of temper, or 
immorality on the part of the wife, or if the husband 
suffers from leprosy or impotence. Among the Lalbegis, 
when a man wishes to get rid of his wife he assembles the 
brethren and in their presence says to her, ' You are as my 
sister,' and she answers, ' You are as my father and brother.' ^ 
' Crooke, op. cit. para. 52. 


The dead are usually buried, but the well-to-do some- 7. Disposal 
times cremate them. In Benares the face or hand of the °^^^^ 
corpse is scorched with fire to symbolise cremation and it 
is then buried. In the Punjab the ghosts of sweepers are 
considered to be malevolent and are much dreaded ; and 
their bodies are therefore always buried or burnt face 
downwards to prevent the spirit escaping ; and riots have 
taken place and the magistrates have been appealed to to 
prevent a Chuhra from being buried face upwards.^ In 
Benares as the" body is lowered into the grave the sheet is 
withdrawn for a moment from the features of the departed 
to afford him one last glimpse of the heavens, while with 
Muhammadans the face is turned towards Mecca. Each 
clansman flings a handful of dust over the corpse, and after 
the earth is filled in crumbles a little bread and sugar-cake 
and sprinkles water upon the grave. A provision of bread, 
sweetmeats and water is also left upon it for the soul of the 
departed." In the Central Provinces the body of a man is 
covered with a white winding-sheet and that of a woman 
with a red one. If the death occurs during the lunar 
conjunction known as Panchak, four human images of flour 
are made and buried with the dead man, as they think 
that if this is not done four more deaths will occur in the 

If a woman greatly desires a child she will go to a 8. Devices 
shrine and lay a stone on it which she calls the dJiavna or '^l^^^T 
deposit or pledge. Then she thinks that she has put the children. 
god under an obligation to give her a child. She vows that 
if she becomes pregnant within a certain period, six or nine 
months, she will make an offering of a certain value. If 
the pregnancy comes she goes to the temple, makes the 
offering and removes the stone. If the desired result does 
not happen, however, she considers that the god has broken 
his obligation and ceases to worship him. If a barren 
woman desires a child she should steal on a Sunday or a 
Wednesday a strip from the body-cloth of a fertile woman 
when it is hung out to dry ; or she may steal a piece of rope 
from the bed in which a woman has been delivered of a 
child, or a piece of the baby's soiled swaddling clothes or a 

^ Ibbetson, op. cit, para. 227. 2 Qreeven, op. cit. p. 21. 


piece of cloth stained with the blood of a fertile woman. 
This last she will take and bury in a cemetery and the 
others wear round her waist ; then she will become fertile 
and the fertile woman will become barren. Another device 
is to obtain from the midwife a piece of the navel-string of a 
newborn child and swallow it. For this reason the navel- 
string is always carefully guarded and its disposal seen to. 

9. Divina- If a pregnant woman is thin and ailing they think a boy 

tionofsex. ^jjj ^^ ^^^^.^^ . ^^^ j^ ^^j. ^^^^ ^^^j^ ^j^^^ j^. ^yjjj y^^ ^ gjj.|_ ^^ 

order to divine the sex of a coming child they pour a little 
oil on the stomach of the woman ; if the oil flows straight 
down it is thought that a boy will be born and if crooked a 
girl. Similarly if the hair on the front of her body grows 
straight they think the child will be a boy, but if crooked a 
girl ; and if the swelling of pregnancy is more apparent on 
the right side a boy is portended, but if on the left side a 
girl. If delivery is retarded they go to a gunmaker and 
obtain from him a gun which has been discharged and the 
soiling of the barrel left uncleaned ; some water is put into 
the barrel and shaken up and then poured into a vessel and 
given to the woman to drink, and it is thought that the 
quality of swift movement appertaining to the bullet which 
soiled the barrel will be communicated to the woman and 
cause the swift expulsion of the child from her womb, 

10. Child- When a woman is in labour she squats down with 
birth. j^gj. jggg apart holding to the bed in front of her, while the 

midwife rubs her back. If delivery is retarded the midwife 
gets a broom and sitting behind the woman presses it on 
her stomach, at the same time drawing back the upper 
part of her body. By this means they think the child will 
be forced from the womb. Or the mother of the woman in 
labour will take a grinding-stone and stand holding it on 
her head so long as the child is not born. She says to 
her daughter, ' Take my name,' and the daughter repeats 
her mother's name aloud. Here the idea is apparently that 
the mother takes on herself some of the pain which has to 
be endured by the daughter, and the repetition of her name 
by the daughter will cause the goddess of childbirth to 
hasten the period of delivery in order to terminate the 
unjust sufferings of the mother for which the goddess has 


become responsible. The mother's name exerts pressure or 
influence on the fjoddcss who is at the time occupied with 
the daughter or perhaps sojourning in her bod)-. 

If a child is born in the morning they will give the n. Treat- 
mother a little sugar and cocoanut to eat in the evening, u,e"niother. 
but if it is born in the evening they will give her nothing 
till next morning. Milk is given only sparingly as it is 
supposed to produce coughing. The main idea of treat- 
ment in childbirth is to prevent either the mother or child 
from taking cold or chill, this being the principal danger 
to which they are thought to be exposed. The door of the 
birth chamber is therefore kept shut and a fire is continually 
burning in it night and day. The woman is not bathed for 
several days, and the atmosphere and general insanitary 
conditions can better be imagined than described. With the 
same end of preventing cold they feed the mother on a hot 
liquid produced by cooking thirty-six ingredients together. 
Most of these are considered to have the quality of produ- 
cing heat or warmth in the body, and the following are a few 
of them : Pepper, ginger, azgan (a condiment), turmeric, 
nutmeg, ajivdvi (aniseed), dates, almonds, raisins, cocoanut, 
wild singdra or water-nut, cumin, chironji} the gum of the 
babiil' or khairf asafoetida, borax, saffron, clarified butter 
and sugar. The mixture cannot be prepared for less than 
two rupees and the woman is fed on it for five days beginning 
from the second day after birth, if the family can afford the 

If the mother's milk runs dry, they use the dried bodies 12. Pro- 
of the little fish caught in the shallow water of fields and Jectmg the 

^ lives of 

tanks, and sometimes supposed to have fallen down with the children. 
rain. They are boiled in a little water and the fish and 
water are given to the woman to consume. Here the idea 
is apparently that as the fish has the quality of liquidness 
because it lives in water, so by eating it this will be 
communicated to the breasts and the milk will flow again. 
If a woman's children die, then the next time she is in labour 
they bring a goat all of one colour. When the birth of 
the child takes place and it falls from the womb on to the 

^ The fruit of the achar {Buchanania laiifolia). 
2 Acacia arabica. 3 Acacia catechu. 



ground no one must touch it, but the goat, which should if 
possible be of the same sex as the child, is taken and passed 
over the child twenty-one times. Then they take the goat and 
the after-birth to a cemetery and here cut the goat's throat 
by the haldl rite and bury it with the after-birth. The 
idea is thus that the goat's life is a substitute for that of 
the child. By being passed over the child it takes the 
child's evil destiny upon itself, and the burial in a cemetery 
causes the goat to resemble a human being, while the after- 
birth communicates to it some part of the life of the child. 
If a mother is afraid her child will die, she sells it for a few 
cowries to another woman. Of course the sale is only nominal, 
but the woman who has purchased the child takes a special 
interest in it, and at the naming or other ceremony she will 
give it a jewel or such other present as she can afford. Thus 
she considers that the fictitious sale has had some effect and 
that she has acquired a certain interest in the child. 
13. In- If a baby, especially a girl, has much hair on its body, 

they make a cake of gram-flour and rub it with sesamum 
oil all over the body, and this is supposed to remove the 

If a child's skin dries up and it pines away, they think 
that an owl has taken away a cloth stained by the child 
when it was hung out to dry. The remedy is to obtain 
the "liver of an owl and hang it round the child's neck. 

For jaundice they get the flesh of a yellow snake 
which appears in the rains, and of the roJiu fish which has 
yellowish scales, and hang them to its neck ; or they 
get a verse of the Koran written out by a Maulvi or 
Muhammadan priest and use this as an amulet ; or they catch 
a small frog alive, tie it up in a yellow cloth and hang it to 
the child's neck by a blue thread until it dies. For tetanus 
the jaws are branded outside and a little musk is placed 
on the mother's breast so that the child may drink it with the 
milk. When the child begins to cut its teeth they put 
honey on the gums and think that this will make the teeth 
slip out early as the honey is smooth and slippery. But 
as the child licks the gums when the honey is on them they 
fear that this may cause the teeth to grow broad and crooked 
like the tongue. Another device is to pass a piece of gold 


round the child's gums. If they want the child to have 
pretty teeth its maternal uncle threads a number of grains 
of rice on a piece of string and hangs them round its neck, 
so that the teeth may grow like the rice. If the child's 
navel is swollen, the maternal uncle will go out for a walk 
and on his return place his turban over the navel. For 
averting the evil eye the liver of the Indian badger is worn 
in an amulet, this badger being supposed to haunt ceme- 
teries and feed on corpses ; some hairs of a bear also form 
a very favourite amulet, or a tiger's claws set in silver, or 
the tail of a lizard enclosed in lac and made into a ring. 

The religion of the sweepers has been described at 14. Reii- 
length by Mr. Greevcn and Mr. Crooke. It centres round v?j'J,^j^j 
the worship of two saints, Lalbcg or Bale Shah and Balnck 
or Balmik, who is really the huntsman Valmiki, the reputed 
author of the Ramayana. Bfdmlk was originally a low- 
caste hunter called Ratnakar, and when he could not get 
game he was accustomed to rob and kill travellers. But 
one day he met Brahma and wished to kill him ; but he 
could not raise his club against Brahma, and the god spoke 
and convinced him of his sins, directing him to repeat the 
name of Rama until he should be purified of them. But the 
hunter's heart was so evil that he could not pronounce the 
divine name, and instead he repeated ' Mara, Mara ' {struck, 
struck), but in the end by repetition this came to the same 
thing. Mr. Greeven's account continues : "As a small spark 
of fire burneth up a heap of cotton, so the word Rama 
cleaneth a man of all his sins. So the words ' Ram, Ram,' 
were taught unto Ratnakar who ever repeated them for 
sixty thousand years at the self- same spot with a heart 
sincere. All his skin was eaten up by the white ants. Only 
the skeleton remained. Mud had been heaped over the body 
and grass had grown up, yet within the mound of mud the 
saint was still repeating the name of Rama. After sixty 
thousand years Brahma returned. No man could he see, 
yet he heard the voice of Ram, Ram, rising from the mound 
of mud. Then Brahma bethought him that the saint was 
beneath. He besought Indra to pour down rain and to wash 
away the mud. Indra complied with his request and the rain 
washed away the mud. The saint came forth. Nought save 


226 MEHTAR part 

bones remained. Brahma called aloud to the saint. When 
the saint beheld him he prostrated himself and spake : 
' Thou hast taught me the words " Ram, Ram," which have 
cleansed away all my sins.' Then spake Brahma : ' Hitherto 
thou wast Ratnakar. From fo-day thy name shall be Valmlki 
(from valinik, an ant-hill). Now do thou compose a Rama- 
yana in seven parts, containing the deeds and exploits of 
Rama.' " Valmiki had been or afterwards became a sweeper 
and was known as ' cooker of dog's food ' (Swapach), a name 
applied to sweepers,^ who have adopted him as their epony- 
mous ancestor and patron saint. 
15. Laibeg. Lalbeg, who is still more widely venerated, is considered 

to have been Ghazi Miyan, the nephew of Sultan Muhammad 
of Ghazni, and a saint much worshipped in the Punjab. Many 
legends are told of Lalbeg, and his worship is described by 
Mr. Greeven as follows : ^ " The ritual of Lalbeg is con- 
ducted in the presence of the whole brotherhood, as a rule 
at the festival of the Diwali and on other occasions when 
special business arises. The time for worship is after 
sunset and if possible at midnight. His shrine consists of a 
mud platform surrounded by steps, with four little turrets at 
the corners and a spire in the centre, in which is placed a 
lamp filled with clarified butter and containing a wick of 
twisted tow. Incense is thrown into the flame and offerings 
of cakes and sweetmeats are made. A lighted huqqa is 
placed before the altar and as soon as the smoke rises it is 
understood that a whiff has been drawn by the hero." A 
cock is offered to Lalbeg at the Dasahra festival. When a 
man is believed to have been affected by the evil eye they 
wave a broom in front of the sufferer muttering the name of 
the saint. In the Damoh District the guru or priest who is 
the successor of Lalbeg comes from the Punjab every year 
or two. He is richly clad and is followed by a sweeper 
carrying an umbrella. Other Hindus say that his teaching 
is that no one who is not a Lalbeg! can go to heaven, but 
those on whom the dust raised by a Lalbegi sweeping settles 
acquire some modicum of virtue. Similarly Mr. Greeven 

* Some writers consider that Balmik, the sweeper-saint, and Valmlki, the author 
of the Ramayana, are not identicah 
2 Page 38. 


remarks : ' " Sweepers by no means endorse the humble 
opinion entertained with respect to them ; for they allude to 
castes such as Kunbis and Chamars as petty {chJiotd), while 
a common anecdote is related to the effect that a Lalbegi, 
when asked whether Muhammadans could obtain salvation, 
replied : ' I never heard of it, but perhaps they might slip 
in behind Lalbeg.'" 

On the whole the religion of the Lrdbegis appears to 16. Adop- 
be monotheistic and of a sufficiently elevated character, |-o°ei°n 
resembling that of the Kablrpanthis and other reforming religions, 
sects. Its claim to the exclusive possession of the way of 
salvation is a method of revolt against the menial and 
debased position of the caste. Similarly many sweepers 
have become Muhammadans and Sikhs with the same end 
in view, as stated by Mr. Greeven : - " As may be readily 
imagined, the scavengers are merely in name the disciples of 
Nanak Shah, professing in fact to be his followers just as 
they are prepared at a moment's notice to become Christians 
or Muhammadans. Their object is, of course, merely to 
acquire a status which may elevate them above the utter 
degradation of their caste. The acquaintance of most of 
them with the doctrines of Nanak Shah is at zero. They 
know little and care less about his rules of life, habitually 
disregarding, for instance, the prohibitions against smoking 
and hair-cutting. In fact, a scavenger at Benares no more 
becomes a Sikh by taking Nanak Shah's motto than he 
becomes a Christian by wearing a round hat and a pair 
of trousers." It was probably with a similar leaning 
towards the more liberal religion that the Lalbegis, though 
themselves Hindus, adopted a Muhammadan for their 
tutelary saint. In the Punjab Muhammadan sweepers who 
have given up eating carrion and refuse to remove night- 
soil rank higher than the others, and are known as Musalli.^ 
And in Saugor the Muhammadans allow the sweepers to 
come into a mosque and to stand at the back, whereas, 
of course, they cannot approach a Hindu temple. Again 
in Bengal it is stated, " The Dom is regarded with both 
disgust and fear by all classes of Hindus, not only on 

1 Page 8. - Page 54. 

3 Punjab Census Report (1881), para. 599. 

228 MEHTAR part 

account of his habits being abhorrent and abominable, but 
also because he is believed to have no humane or kindly- 
feelings " ; and further, " It is universally believed that 
Doms do not bury or burn their dead, but dismember the 
corpse at night like the inhabitants of Thibet, placing the 
fragments in a pot and sinking them in the nearest river or 
reservoir. This horrid idea probably originated from the 
old Hindu law, which compelled the Doms to bury their 
dead at night." ^ It is not astonishing that the sweepers 
prefer a religion whose followers will treat them somewhat 
more kindly. Another Muhammadan saint revered by the 
sweepers of Saugor is one Zahir Pir. At the fasts in Chait 
and Kunwar (March and September) they tie cocoanuts 
wrapped in cloth to the top of a long bamboo, and marching 
to the tomb of Zahir Pir make offerings of cakes and 
sweetmeats. Before starting for his day's work the sweeper 
does obeisance to his basket and broom. 
17 Social The sweeper stands at the very bottom of the social 

status. ladder of Hinduism. He is considered to be the repre- 
sentative of the Chandala of Manu,^ who was said to be 
descended of a Sudra father and a Brahman woman. " It 
was ordained that the Chandala should live without the 
town ; his sole wealth should be dogs and asses ; his clothes 
should consist of the cerecloths of the dead ; his dishes 
should be broken pots and his ornaments rusty iron. No 
one who regarded his duties should hold intercourse with 
the Chandalas and they should marry only among them- 
selves. By day they might roam about for the purposes 
of work, but should be distinguished by the badges of the 
Raja, and should carry out the corpse of any one who died 
without kindred. They should always be employed to 
slay those who by the law were sentenced to be put to 
death, and they might take the clothes of the slain, their 
beds and their ornaments." Elsewhere the Chandala is 
said to rank in impurity with the town boar, the dog, a 
woman during her monthly illness and a eunuch, none of 
whom must a Brahman allow to see him when eating.^ 
Like the Chandala, the sweeper cannot be touched, and he 

1 Sir II. Risley, I.e., art. Dom. 3 Jbidem, iv. 239, quoted by Mr. 

'■^ hislittUes, X. 12-29-30. Crooke, art. Dom. 


himself acquiesces in this and walks apart. In large towns 
he sometimes carries a kite's wing in his turban to show his 
caste, or goes aloof saying pois, which is equivalent to a 
warning. When the sweeper is in company he will efface 
himself as far as possible behind other people. He is 
known by his basket and broom, and men of other castes 
will not carry these articles lest they should be mistaken 
for a sweeper. The sweeper's broom is made of bamboo, 
whereas the ordinary house-broom is made of date-palm 
leaves. The house-broom is considered sacred as the imple- 
ment of Lakshhmi used in cleaning the house. No one should 
tread upon or touch it with his foot. The sweeper's broom 
is a powerful agent for curing the evil eye, and mothers get 
him to come and wave it up and down in front of a sick 
child for this purpose. Nevertheless it is lucky to see a 
sweeper in the morning, especially if he has his basket with 
him. In Gujarat Mr. Bhimbhai Kirparam writes of him : 
" Though he is held to be lower and more unclean, the 
Bhangia is viewed with kindlier feelings than the Dhed 
(Mahar). To meet the basket-bearing Bhangia is lucky, and 
the Bhangia's blessing is valued. Even now if a Govern- 
ment officer goes into a Bhangia hamlet the men with 
hands raised in blessing say : ' May your rule last for ever.' " 
A sweeper will eat the leavings of other people, but he will 
not eat in their houses ; he will take the food away to his 
own house. It is related that on one occasion a sweeper 
accompanied a marriage party of Lodhis (cultivators), and 
the Lodhi who was the host was anxious that all should 
share his hospitality and asked the sweeper to eat in his 
house ; ^ but he repeatedly refused, until finally the Lodhi 
gave him a she-buffalo to induce him to eat, so that it might 
not be said that any one had declined to share in his feast. 
No other caste, of course, will accept food or water from a 
sweeper, and only a Chamar (tanner) will take a cJiilani 
or clay pipe-bowl from his hand. The sweeper will eat 
carrion and the flesh of almost all animals, including snakes, 
lizards, crocodiles and tigers, and also the leavings of food 
of almost any caste. Mr. Greeven remarks : "' " Only 

' Probably not within the house but in the veranda or courtyard. 
- Ibidem. 

230 MEHTAR part 

Lalbegis and Rawats eat food left by Europeans, but all 
eat food left either by Hindus or Muhammadans ; the Sheikh 
Mehtars as Muhammadans alone are circumcised and reject 
pig's flesh. Each subcaste eats uncooked food with all the 
others, but cooked food alone." From Betul it is reported 
that the Mehtars there will not accept food, water or 
tobacco from a Kayasth, and will not allow one to enter 
their houses. 
i8. Occu- Sweeping and scavenging in the streets and in private 

pation. houses are the traditional occupations of the caste, but they 
have others. In Bombay they serve as night watchmen, 
town-criers, drummers, trumpeters and hangmen. Formerly 
the office of hangman was confined to sweepers, but now 
many low-caste prisoners are willing to undertake it for 
the sake of the privilege of smoking tobacco in jail which 
it confers. In Mlrzapur when a Dom hangman is tying a 
rope round the neck of a criminal he shouts out, ' Dohai 
Mahdrdni, Dohai Sarkdr, Dohai Judge Sahib' or ' Hail 
Great Queen ! Hail Government ! Hail Judge Sahib ! ' in 
order to shelter himself under their authority and escape any 
guilt attaching to the death.^ In the Central Provinces the 
hangman was accompanied by four or five other sweepers 
of the caste panchdyat, the idea being perhaps that his 
act should be condoned by their presence and approval and 
he should escape guilt. In order to free the executioner 
from blame the prisoner would also say : " Dohai Sarkar 
ke, Dohai Kampani ke ; jaisa maim khun kiya waisa apne 
khiin ko pahunchha" or " Hail to the Government and the 
Company ; since I caused the death of another, now I am 
come to my own death " ; and all the PancJies said, ' Ram, 
Rdm.' The hangman received ten rupees as his fee, and of 
this five rupees were given to the caste for a feast and an 
offering to Lalbeg to expiate his sin. In Bundelkhand 
sweepers are employed as grooms by the Lodhis, and may 
put everything on to the horse except a saddle-cloth. They 
are also the village musicians, and some of them play on 
the rustic flute called sJiaJinai at weddings, and receive their 
food all the time that the ceremony lasts. Sweepers are, 
as a rule, to be found only in large villages, as in small ones 
1 Crooke, Tribes and Castes, art. Dom, para. 34. 


there is no work for them. The caste is none too numerous 
in the Central Provinces, and in villages the sweeper is often 
not available when wanted for cleaning the streets. The 
Chamars of Bundelkhand will not remove the corpses of a 
cat or a dog or a squirrel, and a sweeper must be obtained 
for the purpose. These three animals are in a manner holy, 
and it is considered a sin to kill any one of them. But 
their corpses are unclean. A Chamar also refuses to touch 
the corpse of a donkey, but a Kumhar (potter) will some- 
times do this ; if he declines a sweeper must be fetched. 
When a sweeper has to enter a house in order to take out 
the body of an animal, it is cleaned and whitewashed after 
he has been in. In Hoshangabad an objection appears to 
be felt to the entry of a sweeper by the door, as it is stated 
that a ladder is placed for him, so that he presumably climbs 
through a window. Or where there are no windows it is 
possible that the ladder may protect the sacred threshold 
from contact with his feet. The sweeper also attends at 
funerals and assists to prepare the pyre ; he receives the 
winding-sheet when this is not burnt or buried with the 
corpse, and the copper coins which are left on the ground 
as purchase-money for the site of the grave. In Bombay 
in rich families the winding-sheet is often a worked shawl 
costing from fifty to a hundred rupees.^ When a Hindu 
widow breaks her bangles after her husband's death, she 
gives them, including one or two whole ones, to a Bhangia 
woman." A letter announcing a death is always carried by 
a sweeper.^ In Bengal a funeral could not be held without 
the presence of a Dom, whose functions are described by 
Mr. Sherring ^ as follows : " On the arrival of the dead 
body at the place of cremation, which in Benares is at the 
basis of one of the steep stairs or ghats, called the Burning- 
Ghat, leading down from the streets above to the bed of the 
river Ganges, the Dom supplies five logs of wood, which he 
lays in order upon the ground, the rest of the wood being 
given by the family of the deceased. When the pile is 
ready for burning a handful of lighted straw is brought by 

1 Bombay Gazetteer, I.e. Bombay Gazetteer, I.e. 

2 Ibidem. * Hindu Tribes and Castes, quoted 
■^ Punjab Census Report (iSSi), and by Sir H. Risley, art. Dom. 


19. Occu- 


the Doin, and is taken from him and applied by one of the 
chief members of the family to the wood. The Dom is the 
only person who can furnish the light for the purpose ; and 
if for any reason no Dom is available, great delay and 
inconvenience are apt to arise. The Dom exacts his fee 
for three things, namely, first for the five logs, secondly for 
the bunch of straw, and thirdly for the light." 

During an eclipse the sweepers reap a good harvest ; 
for it is believed that Rahu, the demon who devours the sun 
and moon and thus causes an eclipse, was either a sweeper 
or the deity of the sweepers, and alms given to them at this 
time will appease him and cause him to let the luminaries 
go. Or, according to another account, the sun and moon are 
in Rahu's debt, and he comes and duns them, and this is the 
eclipse ; and the alms given to sweepers are a means of 
paying the debt. In Gujarat as soon as the darkening sets 
in the Bhangis go about shouting, ' Garhanddn, Vastraddn, 
Rupdddnl or ' Gifts for the eclipse, gifts of clothes, gifts of 
silver.' ^ The sweepers are no doubt derived from the 
primitive or Dravidian tribes, and, as has been seen, they also 
practise the art of making bamboo mats and baskets, being 
known as Bansphor in Bombay on this account. In the 
Punjab the Chuhras are a very numerous caste, being 
exceeded only by the Jats, Rajputs and Brahmans. Only 
a small proportion of them naturally find employment as 
scavengers, and the remainder are agricultural labourers, and 
together with the vagrants and gipsies are the hereditary 
workers in grass and reeds.^ They are closely connected 
with the Dhanuks, a caste of hunters, fowlers and village 
watchmen, being of nearly the same status.^ And Dhanuk, 
again, is in some localities a complimentary term for a Basor 
or bamboo-worker. It has been seen that Valmiki, the 
patron saint of the sweepers, was a low-caste hunter, and 
this gives some reason for the supposition that the primary 
occupations of the Chuhras and Bhangis were hunting and 
working in grass and bamboo. In one of the legends of 
the sweeper saint Balmlk or Valmiki given by Mr. Greeven,* 
Balmlk was the youngest of the five Pandava brothers, and 

1 Bombay Gazetteer, I.e. 
'^ Ibbetson, I.e. para. 596. 

•^ Ibidem, para. 601. 
* L.c. pp. 25, 26. 

II MEO 233 

was persuaded by the others to remove the body of a calf 
which had died in their courtyard. But after he had done 
so they refused to touch him, so he went into the wilderness 
with the body ; and when he did not know how to feed 
himself the carcase started into life and gave him milk until 
he was full grown, when it died again of its own accord. 
Balmlk burst into tears, not knowing how he was to live 
henceforward, but a voice cried from heaven saying, " Of 
the sinews (of the calfs body) do thou tie winnows {siif), 
and of the caul do thou plait sieves {chalni)." Balmlk 
obeyed, and by his handiwork gained the name of Supaj or 
the maker of winnowing-fans. These are natural occupa- 
tions of the non-Aryan forest tribes, and are now practised 
by the Gonds. 

Meo, Mewati. — The Muhammadan branch of the Mina 
tribe belonging to the country of Mewat in Rajputana which 
is comprised in the Alwar, Bharatpur and Jaipur States and 
the British District of Gurgaon. A few Meos were returned 
from the Hoshangabad and Nimar Districts in 191 1, but 
it is doubtful whether any are settled here, as they may 
be wandering criminals. The origin of the Meo is discussed 
in the article on the Mina tribe, but some interesting re- 
marks on them by Mr. Channing and Major Powlett in the 
Rajputana Gazetteer may be reproduced here. Mr. Channing 
writes : ^ 

"The tribe, which has been known in Hindustan accord- 
ing to the Kutub Tavvarikh for 850 years, was originally 
Hindu and became Muhammadan. Their origin is obscure. 
They themselves claim descent from the Rajput races of 
Jadon, Kachhwaha and Tuar, and they may possibly have 
some Rajput blood in their veins ; but they are probably, 
like many other similar tribes, a combination from ruling 
and other various stocks and sources, and there is reason to 
believe them very nearly allied with the Minas, who are 
certainly a tribe of the same structure and species. The 
Meos have twelve clans or pdls^ the first six of which are 
identical in name and claim the same descent as the first six 
clans of the Minas. Intermarriage between them both was 

' Rajputana Gazetteer, vol. i. p. 165. 


the rule until the time of Akbar, when owing to an affray at 
the marriage of a Meo with a Mina the custom was discon- 
tinued. Finally, their mode of life is or was similar, as both 
tribes were once notoriously predatory. It is probable that 
the original Meos were supplemented by converts to Islam 
from other castes. It is said that the tribe were conquered 
and converted in the eleventh century by Masud, son of Amir 
Salar and grandson of Sultan Mahmud Subaktagin on the 
mother's side, the general of the forces of Mahmud of Ghazni. 
Masud is still venerated by the Meos, and they swear by his 
name. They have a mixture of Hindu and Muhammadan 
customs. They practise circumcision, nikdJi} and the burial 
of the dead. They make pilgrimages to the tomb of Masud 
in Bahraich in Oudh, and consider the oath taken on his 
banner the most binding. They also make pilgrimages to 
Muhammadan shrines in India, but never perform the Haj. 
Of Hindu customs they observe the Holi or Diwali ; their 
marriages are never arranged in the same got or sept ; and 
they permit daughters to inherit. They call their children 
indiscriminately by both Muhammadan and Hindu names. 
They are almost entirely uneducated, but have bards and 
musicians to whom they make large presents. These sing 
songs known as Ratwai, which are commonly on pastoral 
and agricultural subjects. The Meos are given to the use of 
intoxicating drinks, and are very superstitious and have great 
faith in omens. The dress of the men and women resembles 
that of the Hindus. Infanticide was formerly common among 
them, but it is said to have entirely died out. They were 
also formerly robbers by avocation ; and though they have 
improved they are still noted cattle-lifters." 

In another description of them by Major Powlett it is 
stated that, besides worshipping Hindu gods and keeping 
Hindu festivals, they employ a Brahman to write the Plli 
Chhitthi or yellow note fixing the date of a marriage. They 
call themselves by Hindu names with the exception of Ram ; 
and Singh is a frequent affix, though not so common as Khan. 
On the Amawas or monthly conjunction of the sun and 
moon, Meos, in common with Hindu Ahlrs and Gujars, cease 
from labour ; and when they make a well the first proceeding 
' A Muhammadan form of marriage. 

II MiNA 235 

is to erect a chabutra (platform) to Bhaironji or Hanuman. 
However, when plunder was to be obtained they have often 
shown little respect for Hindu shrines and temples ; and 
when the sanctity of a threatened place has been urged, the 
retort has been, ' Tuin to Deo, Hani Meol or ' You may be a 
Deo (God), but I am a Meo.' 

Meos do not marry in their pal or clan, but they are 
lax about forming connections with women of other castes, 
whose children they receive into the community. As already 
stated, Brahmans take part in the formalities preceding a 
marriage, but the ceremony itself is performed by a Kazi. 
As agriculturists Meos are inferior to their Hindu neighbours. 
The point in which they chiefly fail is in working their wells, 
for which they lack patience. Their women, whom they do 
not confine, will, it is said, do more field-work than the men ; 
indeed, one often finds women at work in the crops when the 
men are lying down. Like the women of low Hindu castes 
they tattoo their bodies, a practice disapproved by Musalmans 
in general. Abul Fazl writes that the Meos were in his time 
famous runners, and one thousand of them were employed 
by Akbar as carriers of the post. 

Mina, Deswali, Maina. — A well-known caste of Rajputana i- The 
which is found in the Central Provinces in the Hoshangabad, locaiiy 
Nimar and Saugor Districts. About 8000 persons of the termed 

, . ^T,, - , . Deswalis. 

caste were returned m 191 i. ihe proper name lor them is 
Mina, but here they are generally known as Deswali, a term 
which they probably prefer, as that of Mina is too notorious. 
A large part of the population of the northern Districts is 
recruited from Bundelkhand and Marwar, and these tracts 
are therefore often known among them as ' Desh ' or native 
country. The term Deswali is applied to groups of many 
castes coming from Bundelkhand, and has apparently been 
specially appropriated as an alias by the Minas. The caste 
are sometimes known in Hoshangabad as Maina, which 
Colonel Tod states to be the name of the highest division of 
the Minas. The designation of Pardeshi or ' foreigner ' is 
also given to them in some localities. The Deswalis came 
to Harda about A.D. 1750, being invited by the Maratha 
Amil or governor, who gave one family a grant of three 

236 MINA PAR'j 

villages. They thus gained a position of some dignity, and 
this reaching the ears of their brothers in Jaipur they also 
came and settled all over the District.^ In view of the 
history and character of the Minas, of which some account 
will be given, it should be first stated that under the regime 
of British law and order most of the Deswalis of Hoshangabad 
have settled down into steady and honest agriculturists, 
2. Histori- The Minas were a famous robber tribe of the country of 

'^f'th°\r M^wat in Rajputana, comprised in the Alwar and Bharatpur 
tribe. States and the British District of Gurgaon." They are also 

found in large numbers in Jaipur State, which was formerly 
held by them. The Meos and Minas are now considered to 
be branches of one tribe, the former being at least nominally 
Muhammadans by religion and the latter Hindus. A 
favourite story for recitation at their feasts is that of Darya 
Khan Meo and Sasibadani Mini, a pair of lovers whose 
marriage led to a quarrel between the tribes to which they 
belonged, in the time of Akbar. This dispute caused the 
cessation of the practice of intermarriage between Meos and 
Minas which had formerly obtained. Both the Meos and 
Minas are divided into twelve large clans called pdl^ the word 
pal meaning, according to Colonel Tod, * a defile in a valley 
suitable for cultivation or defence.' In a sandy desert like 
Rajputana the valleys of streams might be expected to be 
the- only favourable tracts for settlement, and the name 
perhaps therefore is a record of the process by which the 
colonies of Minas in these isolated patches of culturable land 
developed into exogamous clans marrying with each other. 
The Meos have similarly twelve pdls^ and the names of six of 
these are identical with those of the Mlnas.^ The names of 
'CiXQpdls are taken from those of Rajput clans,'' but the recorded 
lists differ, and there are now many other gots or septs 
outside the pals. The Minas seem originally to have been 
an aboriginal or pre-Aryan tribe of Rajputana, where they 

' P^Iliott's Hoshangabad Settleinoit clans— Chhirkilta, Dalat, Dermot, Nai, 

Report, p. 63. Pundelot ; five Tuar clans — Balot, 

2 Cunningham's Archaeological Sur- Darwar, Kalesa, Lundavat, Rattawat ; 

vey Reports, xx. p. 24. ""^ Kachhwaha clan-Dingal ; one 

Bargjuar clan — bingal. Besides these 

Ibidem. there is one miscellaneous or half-blood 

* General Cunningham's enumeration clan, Palakra, making up the common 

of the pals is as follows : Five Jadon total of I2i clans. 


are still found in considerable numbers. The Raja of Jaipur 
was formerly marked on the forehead with blood taken 
from the great toe of a Mina on the occasion of his instal- 
lation. Colonel Tod records that the Amber or Jaipur State 
was founded by one Dholesai in A.D. 967 after he had 
slaughtered large numbers of the Minas by treachery. 
And in his time the Minas still possessed large immunities 
and privileges in the Jaipur State. When the Rajputs 
settled in force in Rajputana, reducing the Minas to sub- 
jection, illicit connections would naturally arise on a large 
scale between the invaders and the women of the conquered 
country. For even when the Rajputs only came as small 
isolated parties of adventurers, as into the Central Provinces, 
we find traces of such connections in the survival of castes 
or subcastes of mixed descent from them and the indigenous 
tribes. It follows therefore that where they occupied the 
country and settled on the soil the process would be still 
more common. Accordingly it is generally recognised that 
the Minas are a caste of the most mixed and impure descent, 
and it has sometimes been supposed that they were them- 
selves a branch of the Rajputs. In the Punjab when one 
woman accuses another of illicit intercourse she is said 
' Mltia dena^ or to designate her as a Mlna.^ Further it 
is stated ^ that " The Minas are of two classes, the Zamlndari 
or agricultural and the Chaukldari or watchmen. These 
Chaukldari Minas are the famous marauders." The office 
of village watchman was commonly held by members of 
the aboriginal tribes, and these too furnished the criminal 
classes. Another piece of evidence of the Dravidian origin 
of the tribe is the fact that there exists even now a group 
of Dhedia or impure Minas who do not refuse to eat cow's 
flesh. The Chaukldari Minas, dispossessed of their land, 
resorted to the hills, and here they developed into a com- 
munity of thieves and bandits recruited from all the outcastes 
of society. Sir A. Lyall wrote ^ of the caste as " a Cave of 
Adullam which has stood open for centuries. With them 
a captured woman is solemnly admitted by a form of adoption 

* Ibbetson's Punjab Census Report, pression referred to the Mina caste, 
para. 582. Sir D. Ibbetson considered - Mz^ox Vo\\\&\.t, Gazetteer of A huai: 

it doubtful, however, whether the ex- ^ Asiatic Studies, vol. i. p. 162. 

238 MINA PAR-i 

into one circle of affinity, in order that she may be lawfully 
married into another." With the conquest of northern 
India by the Muhammadans, many of the Minas, being 
bound by no ties to Hinduism, might be expected to em- 
brace the new and actively proselytising religion, while 
their robber bands would receive fugitive Muhammadans as 
recruits as well as Hindus. Thus probably arose a Musal- 
man branch of the community, who afterwards became 
separately designated as the Meos. As already seen, the 
Meos and Minas intermarried for a time, but subsequently 
ceased to do so. As might be expected, the form of Islam 
professed by the Meos is of a very bastard order, and Major 
Powlett's account of it is reproduced in a short separate 
notice of that tribe. 
3. Their The Crimes and daring of the Minas have obtained for 

robberies, them a Considerable place in history. A Muhammadan 
historian,* Zia-ud-din Bami, wrote of the tribe : ^ "At night 
they were accustomed to come prowling into the city of Delhi, 
giving all kinds of trouble and depriving people of their rest, 
and they plundered the country houses in the neighbourhood 
of the city. Their daring was carried to such an extent 
that the western gates of the city were shut at afternoon 
prayer and no one dared to leave it after that hour, whether 
he travelled as a pilgrim or with the display of a king. At 
afternoon prayer they would often come to the Sarhouy, and 
assaulting the water-carriers and girls who were fetching 
water they would strip them and carry off their clothes. In 
turn they were treated by the Muhammadan rulers with the 
most merciless cruelty. Some were thrown under the feet 
of elephants, others were cut in halves with knives, and others 
again were flayed alive from head to foot." Regular 
campaigns against them were undertaken by the Muham- 
madans,^ as in later times British forces had to be des- 
patched to subdue the Pindaris. Babar on his arrival at 
Agra' described the Mewati leader Raja Hasan Khan as ' the 
chief agitator in all these confusions and insurrections ' ; and 
Firishta mentions two terrible slaughters of Mewatis in 

' Quoted in Dovvson's Elliott's 283, quoted in Crooke's Tribes and 
History of India, iii. p. 103. Castes. 

2 Dowson's Elliott, iv. pp. 60, 75, 


A.D. 1259 and 1265. In 1857 Major Powlctt records that in 
Alwar they assembled and burnt the State ricks and carried 
off cattle, though they did not succeed in plundering any 
towns or villages there. In British territory they sacked 
Firozpur and other villages, and when a British force came to 
restore order many were hanged. Sir D. Ibbetson wrote of 
them in the Punjab : ^ 

" The Minas are the boldest of our criminal classes. 
Their headquarters so far as the Punjab is concerned are in 
the village of Shahjahanpur, attached to the Gurgaon District 
but surrounded on all sides by Rajputana territory. There 
they until lately defied our police and even resisted them 
with armed force. Their enterprises are on a large scale, 
and they are always prepared to use violence if necessary. 
In Marwar they are armed with small bows which do con- 
siderable execution. They travel great distances in gangs 
of from twelve to twenty men, practising robbery and dacoity 
even as far as the Deccan. The gangs usually start off 
immediately after the Diwali feast and often remain absent 
the whole year. They have agents in all the large cities of 
Rajputana and the Deccan who give them information, and 
they are in league with the carrying castes of Marwar. 
After a successful foray they offer one-tenth of the proceeds 
at the shrine of Kali Devi." 

Like other criminals they were very superstitious, and 
Colonel Tod records that the partridge and the maloli or 
wagtail were their chief birds of omen. A partridge 
clamouring on the left when he commenced a foray was 
a certain presage of success to a Mina. Similarly, Mr. 
Kennedy notes that the finding of a dried goatskin, either 
whole or in pieces, among the effects of a suspected criminal 
is said to be an infallible indication of his identity as a 
Mina, the flesh of the goat's tongue being indispensable in 
connection with the taking of omens. In Jaipur the Mlnas 
were employed as guards, as a method of protection against 
their fellows, for whose misdeeds they were held responsible. 
Rent-free lands were given to them, and they were alwa}'s 
employed to escort treasure. Here they became the most 
faithful and trusted of the Raja's servants. It is related 
1 Census Report (1881), para. 582. 



4. The 
of the 

that on one occasion a Mina sentinel at the palace had 
received charge of a basket of oranges. A friend of the 
same tribe came to him and asked to be shown the palace, 
which he had never seen. The sentinel agreed and took 
him over the palace, but when his back was turned the 
friend stole one orange from the basket. Subsequently the 
sentinel counted the oranges and found one short ; on this 
he ran after his friend and taxed him with the theft, which 
being admitted, the Mina said that he had been made to 
betray his trust and had become dishonoured, and drawing 
his sword cut off his friend's head. The ancient treasure of 
Jaipur or Amber was, according to tradition, kept in a secret 
cave in the hills under a body of Mina guards who alone 
knew the hiding-place, and would only permit any part of 
it to be withdrawn for a great emergency. Nor would they 
accept the orders of the Raja alone, but required the consent 
of the heads of the twelve principal noble families of Amber, 
branches of the royal house, before they would give up any 
part of the treasure. The criminal Minas are said to 
inhabit a tract of country about sixty-five miles long and 
forty broad, stretching from Shahpur forty miles north of 
Jaipur to Guraora in Gurgaon on the Rohtak border. The 
popular idea of the Mina, Mr. Crooke remarks,^ is quite in 
accordance with his historical character ; his niggardliness 
is shown in the saying, 'The Meo will not give his 
daughter in marriage till he gets a mortar full of silver ' ; 
his pugnacity is expressed in, ' The Meo's son begins to 
avenge his feuds when he is twelve years old ' ; and his 
toughness in, ' Never be sure that a Meo is dead till you see 
the third-day funeral ceremony performed.' 

As already stated, the Deswalis of the Central Provinces 
have abandoned the wild life of their ancestors and settled 
down as respectable cultivators. Only a few particulars 
about them need be recorded. Girls are usually married 
before they are twelve years old and boys at sixteen to 
twenty. A sum of Rs. 24 is commonly paid for the bride, 
and a higher amount up to Rs. 7 1 may be given, but this 
is the maximum, and if the father of the girl takes more 
he will be fined by the caste and made to refund the 
1 Tribes and Castes of the N. W.P. art. Meo. 


balance. A triangle with some wooden models of birds 
is placed on the marriage-shed and the bridegroom strikes 
at these with a stick ; formerly he fired a gun at them to 
indicate that he w^as a hunter by profession. A Brahman 
is employed to celebrate the marriage. A widow is usually 
taken by her late husband's younger brother, but if there 
be none the elder brother may marry her, contrary to the 
general rule among Hindus. The object is to keep the 
woman in the famil}', as wives are costly. If she is 
unwilling to marry her brother-in-law, however, no com- 
pulsion is exercised and she may wed another man. 
Divorce is allowed, and in Rajputana is very simply effected. 
If tempers do not assimilate or other causes prompt them 
to part, the husband tears a shred from his turban which 
he gives to his wife, and with this simple bill of divorce, 
placing two jars of water on her head, she takes whatever 
path she pleases, and the first man who chooses to ease 
her of her load becomes her future lord. '' JeJiur nikdlal 
' Took the jar and went forth,' is a common saying among 
the mountaineers of Merwara.^ 

The dead are cremated, the corpse of a man being 
wrapped in a white and that of a woman in a coloured 
cloth. They have no sJirdddJi ceremony, but mourn for 
the dead only on the last day of Kartik (October), when 
they offer water and burn incense. Deswalis employ the 
Parsai or village Brahman to officiate at their ceremonies, 
but owing to their mixed origin they rank below the 
cultivating castes, and Brahmans will not take water from 
them. In Jaipur, however. Major Powlett says, their 
position is higher. They are, as already seen, the trusted 
guards of the palace and treasury, and Rajputs will accept 
food and water from their hands. This concession is no 
doubt due to the familiarity induced by living together for 
a long period, and parallel instances of it can be given, as 
that of the Panwars and Gonds in the Central Provinces. 
The Deswalis eat flesh and drink liquor, but abstain from 
fowls and pork. When they are invited to a feast they do 
not take their own brass vessels with them, but drink out 
of earthen pots supplied by the host, having the liquor 

1 RajasthCin, i. p. 589. 



poured on to their hands held to the mouth to avoid actual 
contact with the vessel. This is a Marvvari custom and 
the Jats also have it. Before the commencement of the 
feast the guests wait until food has been given to as many 
beggars as like to attend. In Saugor the food served 
consists only of rice and pulse without vegetables or other 
dishes. It is said that a Mina will not eat salt in the house 
of another man, because he considers that to do so would 
establish the bond of Nimak-khai or salt-eating between 
them, and he would be debarred for ever from robbing that 
man or breaking into his house. The guests need not sit 
down together as among other Hindus, but may take their 
food in batches ; so that the necessity of awaiting the 
arrival of every guest before commencing the feast is 
avoided. The Deswalis will not kill a black-buck nor eat 
the flesh of one, but they assign no reason for this and do 
not now worship the animal. The rule is probably, how- 
ever, a totemistic survival. The men may be known by 
their manly gait and harsh tone of voice, as well as by a 
peculiar method of tying the turban ; the women have a 
special ornament called rdkJidi on the forehead and do not 
wear spangles or toe-rings. They are said also to despise 
ornaments of the baser metals as brass and pewter. They 
are tattooed with dots on the face to set off the fair-coloured 
skin, by contrast, in the same manner as patches were 
carried on the face in Europe in the eighteenth century. 
A tattoo dot on a fair face is likened by a Hindu poet to 
a bee sitting on a half-opened mango. 

Mirasi. — A Muhammadan caste of singers, minstrels and 
genealogists, of which a few members are found in the Central 
Provinces, General Cunningham says that they are the 
bards and singers of the Meos or Mewatis at all their marriages 
and festivals.-^ Mr. Crooke is of opinion that they are un- 
doubtedly an offshoot of the great Dom caste who are little 
better than sweepers.- The word Mirasi is derived from the 
Arabic inirds, inheritance, and its signification is supposed 
to be that the Mirasis are the hereditary bards and singers 

1 Archaeological Reports, vol. xx. ''■ Tribes and Castes of the North- 

p, 26. Western Provinces, vol. iii. p. 496. 

II M IRA SI 243 

of the lower castes, as the Bhat is of the Rajputs. Mints 
as a word may, however, be used of any hereditary right, as 
that of the village headman or Karnam, or even those of the 
village watchman or temple dancing-girl, all of whom may 
have a viirdsi right to fees or perquisites or plots of land 
held as remuneration for service.^ The Mirasis are also 
known as Pakhawaji, from the pakJiaivaj or timbrel which 
they play ; as Kawwal or one who speaks fluently, that is a 
professional story-teller ; and as Kalawant or one possessed 
of art or skill. The Mirasis are most numerous in the 
Punjab, where they number a quarter of a million. Sir D. 
Ibbetson says of them : - " The social position of the Mirasi 
as of all minstrel castes is exceedingly low, but he attends 
at weddings and similar occasions to recite genealogies. 
Moreover there are grades even among Mirasis. The out- 
caste tribes have their Mirasis, who though they do not eat 
with their clients and merely render their professional 
services are considered impure by the Mirasis of the higher 
castes. The Mirasi is generally a hereditary servant like 
the Bhat, and is notorious for his exactions, which he makes 
under the threat of lampooning the ancestors of him from 
whom he demands fees. The Mirasi is almost always a 
Muhammadan." They are said to have been converted to 
Islam in response to the request of the poet Amir Khusru, 
who lived in the reign of Ala-ud-dln Khilji (a.d. 1295). 
The Mirasi has two functions, the men being musicians, story- 
tellers and genealogists, while the women dance and sing, but 
only before the ladies of the zenana. Mr. Nesfield ^ says 
that they are sometimes regularly entertained as jesters to 
help these ladies to kill time and reconcile them to their 
domestic prisons. As they do not dance before men they are 
reputed to be chaste, as no woman who is not a prostitute 
will dance in the presence of men, though singing and 
playing are not equally condemned. The implements of the 
Mirasis are generally the small drum (dholak), the cj'mbals 
{majlra) and the gourd lute [kingri)} 

^ Baden Powell's Land Systems of ^ Brief Viezv, p. 43. 

British India, vol. iii. p. 1 1 6. 

2 Punjab Ethnography, p. 289. * Crooke, loc. cit. 



1. General notice. 4. Antagonism of Mochis and 

. J. . . Chamdrs. 

2. Leg-ends of origin. , zr ^ j.. 

i> J t> 5, Exoganwiis groups. 

3. Art among the Hindus. 6. Social customs. 

7. Shoes. 

I. General Mochi, Muchi, Jiiigar, Jirayat, Jildg-ar, Chitrakar, 
notice. Chitevari, Musabir. — The occupational caste of saddlers and 
cobblers. In 191 1 about 4000 Mochis and 2000 Jingars 
were returned from the Central Provinces and Berar, the 
former residing principally in the Hindustani and the latter 
in the Marathi-speaking Districts. The name is derived from 
the Sanskrit mocJuka and the Hindustani viojna, to fold, and 
the corhmon name mojah for socks and stockings is from the 
same root (Platts). By origin the Mochis are no doubt an 
offshoot of the Chamar caste, but they now generally disclaim 
the connection. Mr. Nesfield observes '^ that, " The industry 
of tanning is preparatory to and lower than that of cobblery, 
and hence the caste of Chamar ranks decidedly below that of 
Mochi. The ordinary Hindu does not consider the touch of 
a Mochi so impure as that of the Chamar, and there is a 
Hindu proverb to the effect that ' Dried or prepared hide is 
the same thing as cloth,' whereas the touch of the raw hide 
before it has been tanned by the Chamar is considered a 
pollution. The Mochi does not eat carrion like the Chamar, 
nor does he eat swine's flesh ; nor does his wife ever practise 
the much-loathed art of midwifery." In the Central Pro- 
vinces, as in northern India, the caste may be considered to 

' This article is partly based on and Mr. Shamsuddin, Sub-Inspector, 
pa])ers by Mr. Gopal J'arnianand, City Police, Saugor. 
Deputy InsjJector of Schools, Saugor, '^ Brief View. 



have two branches, the lower one consisting of the Mochis 
who make and cobble shoes and arc admittedly descended 
from Chamars ; while the better-class men either make saddles 
and harness, when they arc known as Jingar ; or bind books, 
when they are called Jildgar ; or paint and make clay idols, 
when they are given the designation either of Chitrakar, 
Chitevari or Murtikar. In Berar some Jingars have taken 
up the finer kinds of iron-work, such as mending guns, and 
are known as Jirayat. All these are at great pains to dis- 
sociate themselves from the Chamar caste. They call them- 
selves Thakur or Rajput and have exogamous sections the 
names of which are identical with those of the Rajput septs. 
The same people have assumed the name of Rishi in Bengal, 
and, according to a story related by Sir H. Risley, claim to 
be debased Brahmans ; while in the United Provinces Mr. 
Crooke considers them to be connected with the Srivastab 
Kayasths, with whom they intermarry and agree in manners 
and customs. The fact that in the three Provinces these 
workers in leather claim descent from three separate high 
castes is an interesting instance of the trouble which the lower- 
class Hindus will take to obtain a slight increase in social 
consideration ; but the very diversity of the accounts given 
induces the belief that all Mochis were originally sprung from 
the Chamars. In Bombay, again, Mr. Enthoven ^ writes that 
the caste prefers to style itself Arya Somavansi Kshatriya 
or Aryan Kshatriyas of the Moon division ; while they have 
all the regular Brahmanical gotras as Bharadwaja, Vasishtha, 
Gautam and so on. 

The following interesting legends as to the origin of the 2. Legends 
caste adduced by them in support of their Brahmanical °f origin. 
descent are related " by Sir H. Risley : " One of the Praja- 
pati, or mind-born sons of Brahma, was in the habit of pro- 
viding the flesh of cows and clarified butter as a burnt-offering 
{Ahuti) to the gods. It was then the custom to eat a portion 
of the sacrifice, restore the victim to life, and drive it into the 
forest. On one occasion the Praja-pati failed to resuscitate 
the sacrificial animal, owing to his wife, who was pregnant at 
the time, having clandestinely made away with a portion. 

' Bombay Et/itioj^raphic Snrz'ey ^ Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. 

Draft Monograph on Jingar, Mochi. 


Alarmed at this he summoned all the other Praja-patis, and 
they sought by divination to discover the cause of the failure. 
At last they ascertained what had occurred, and as a punish- 
ment the wife was cursed and expelled from their society. 
The child which she bore was the first Mochi or tanner, and 
from that time forth, mankind being deprived of the power 
of reanimating cattle slaughtered for food, the pious aban- 
doned the practice of killing kine altogether. Another story 
is that Muchiram, the ancestor of the caste, was born from 
the sweat of Brahma while dancing. He chanced to offend 
the irritable sage Durvasa, who sent a pretty Brahman 
widow to allure him into a breach of chastity. Muchiram 
accosted the widow as mother, and refused to have anything 
to do with her ; but Durvasa used the miraculous power he 
had acquired by penance to render the widow pregnant so 
that the innocent Muchiram was made an outcaste on 
suspicion. From her two sons are descended the two main 
branches of the caste in Bengal." 
3. Art In the Central Provinces the term Mochi is often used 

among the ^ ^j^ wholc castc in the northern Districts, and Jingar in 

Hindus. _ J ^ 

the Maratha country ; while the Chitrakars or painters form 
a separate group. Though the trades of cobbler and book- 
binder are now widely separated in civilised countries, the 
connection between them is apparent since both work in 
leather. It is not at first sight clear why the painter should 
be of the same caste, but the reason is perhaps that his 
brushes are made of the hair of animals, and this is also 
regarded as impure, as being a part of the hide. If such be 
the case a senseless caste rule of ceremonial impurity has 
prevented the art of painting from being cultivated by the 
Hindus ; and the comparatively poor development of their 
music may perhaps be ascribed to the same cause, since the 
use of the sinews of animals for stringed instruments would 
also prevent the educated classes from learning to play them. 
Thus no stringed instruments are permitted to be used in 
temples, but only the gong, cymbal, horn and conch-shell. 
And this rule would greatly discourage the cultivation of 
music, which art, like all the others, has usually served in its 
early period as an appanage to religious services. It has been 
held that instruments were originally employed at temples 


and shrines in order to scare away evil spirits by their noise 
while the god was being fed or worshipped, and not for the 
purpose of calling the worshippers together ; since noise is 
a recognised means of driving away spirits, probably in 
consequence of its effect in frightening wild animals. It 
is for the same end that music is essential at weddings, 
especially during the night when the spirits are more potent ; 
and this is the primary object of the continuous discordant din 
which the Hindus consider a necessary accompaniment to a 

Except for this ceremonial strictness Hinduism should 
have been favourable to the development of both painting and 
sculpture, as being a polytheistic religion. In the early stages 
of society religion and art are intimately connected, as is shown 
by the fact that images and paintings are at first nearly always 
of deities or sacred persons or animals, and it is only after 
a considerable period of development that secular subjects 
are treated. Similarly architecture is in its commencement 
found to be applied solely to sacred buildings, as temples and 
churches, and is only gradually diverted to secular buildings. 
The figures sculptured by the Mochis are usually images for 
temples, and those who practise this art are called Murtikar, 
from murti, an image or idol ; and the pictures of the 
Chitrakars were until recently all of deities or divine animals, 
though secular paintings may now occasionally be met 
with. And the uneducated believers in a polytheistic religion 
regularly take the image for the deity himself, at first scarcely 
conceiving of the one apart from the other. Thus some 
Bharewas or brass-workers say that they dare not make metal 
images of the gods, because they are afraid that the badness 
of their handiwork might arouse the wrath of the gods and 
move them to take revenge. The surmise might in fact be 
almost justifiable that the end to which figures of men and 
animals were first drawn or painted, or modelled in clay or 
metal was that they might be worshipped as images of the 
deities, the savage mind not distinguishing at all between 
an image of the god and the god himself. For this reason 
monotheistic religions would be severely antagonistic to 
the arts, and such is in fact the case. Thus the Muham- 
madan commentary, the Hadith, has a verse : " Woe to him 


4. An- 
of Mochis 

5. Exo- 

who has painted a living creature ! At the day of the last 
judgment the persons represented by him will come out of 
the tomb and join themselves to him to demand of him a 
soul. Then that man, unable to give life to his work, will 
burn in eternal flames." And in Judaism the familiar pro- 
hibition of the Second Commandment appears to be directed 
to the same end. 

Hindu sculpture has indeed been fairly prolific, but is 
not generally considered to have attained to any degree of 
artistic merit. Since sculpture is mainly concerned with 
the human form it seems clear that an appreciation of the 
beauty of muscular strength and the symmetrical develop- 
ment of the limbs is an essential preliminary to success in 
this art ; and such a feeling can only arise among a people 
who set much store on feats of bodily strength and agility. 
This has never been the character of the Hindus, whose 
religion encourages asceticism and mortification of the body, 
and points to mental self-absorption and detachment from 
worldly cares and exercises as the highest type of virtue. 

As a natural result of the pretensions to nobility made 
by the Mochis, there is no love lost between them and the 
Chamars ; and the latter allege that the Mochis have stolen 
their rdinpi, the knife with which they cut leather. On 
this account the Chamars will neither take water to drink 
from -the Mochis nor mend their shoes, and will not even 
permit them to try on a new pair of shoes until they have 
paid the price set on them ; for they say that the Mochis 
are half-bred Chamars and therefore cannot be permitted to 
defile the shoes of a true Chamar by trying them on ; but 
when they have been paid for, the maker has severed 
connection with them, and the use to which they may be 
put no longer affects him. 

In the Central Provinces the Mochis are said to have 
forty exogamous sections or gotras, of which the bulk are 
named after all the well-known Rajput clans, while two agree 
with those of the Chamars. And they have also an equal 
number of kheras or groups named after villages. The limits 
of the two groups seem to be identical ; thus members of 
the sept named after the Kachhwaha Rajputs say that their 
kJicra or village name is Mungavali in Gwalior ; those of 



the Ghangere sept give Chanderi as their khera, the Sitawat 
sept Dhamoni in Saugor, the Didoria Chhatarpur, the 
Narcle Narwar, and so on. The names of the village groups 
have now been generally forgotten and they are said to have 
no influence on marriage, which is regulated by the Rajput 
sept names ; but it seems probable that the kJieras were the 
original divisions and the Rajput gotras have been more 
recently adopted in support of the claims already noticed. 

The Mochis have adopted the customs of the higher Flindu 6. Social 
castes. A man may not take a wife from his own gotra, his 
mother's gotra or from a family into which a girl from his 
own family has married. They usually marry their 
daughters in childhood and employ Brahmans in their cere- 
monies, and no degradation attaches to these latter for serving 
as their priests. In minor domestic ceremonies for which the 
Brahman is not engaged his place is taken by a relative, 
who is called sazvdsa, and is either the sister's husband, 
daughter's husband, or father's sister's husband, of the head 
of the family. They permit widow-remarriage and divorce, 
and in the southern Districts effect a divorce by laying a 
pestle between the wife and husband. They burn their 
dead and observe mourning for the usual period. After a 
death they will not again put on a coloured head-cloth until 
some relative sets it on their heads for the first time on the 
expiry of the period of mourning. They revere the ordinary 
Hindu deities, and like the Chamars they have a family god, 
known as Mair, whose representation in the shape of a lump 
of clay is enshrined within the house and worshipped at 
marriages and deaths. In Saugor he is said to be the 
collective representative of the spirits of their ancestors. In 
some localities they eat flesh and drink liquor, but in others 
abstain from both. Among the Hindus the Mochis rank 
considerably higher than the Chamars ; their touch does 
not defile and they are permitted to enter temples and take 
part in religious ceremonies. The name of a Saugor 
Mochi is remembered who became a good drawer and painter 
and was held in much esteem at the Peshwa's court. In 
northern India about half the Mochis are Muhammadans, 
but in the Central Provinces they are all Hindus. 

In view of the fact that many of the Mochis were 7. Shoes. 


Muhammadans and that slippers arc mainly a Muhammadan 
article of attire Buchanan thought it probable that they were 
brought into India by the invaders, the Hindus having 
previously been content with sandals and wooden shoes. 
He wrote : " Many Hindus now use leather slippers, but 
some adhere to the proper custom of wearing sandals, which 
have wooden soles, a strap of leather to pass over the instep, 
and a wooden or horn peg with a button on its top. The 
foot is passed through the strap and the peg is placed 
between two of the toes." ^ It is certain, however, that 
leather shoes and slippers were known to the Hindus 
from a fairly early period : " The episode related in the 
Ramayana of Bharata placing on the vacant throne of 
Ajodhya a pair of Rama's slippers, which he worshipped 
during the latter's protracted exile, shows that shoes were 
important articles of wear and worthy of attention. In Manu 
and the Mahabharata slippers are also mentioned and the 
time and mode of putting them on pointed out. The Vishnu 
Purana enjoins all who wish to protect their persons never 
to be without leather shoes. Manu in one place expresses 
great repugnance to stepping into another's shoes and 
peremptorily forbids it, and the Puranas recommend the 
use of shoes when walking out of the house, particularly in 
thorny places and on hot sand." ^ Thus shoes were certainly 
worn by the Hindus before Muhammadan times, though 
loose slippers may have been brought into fashion by the 
latter. And it seems possible that the Mochis may have 
adopted Islam, partly to obtain the patronage of the followers 
of the new religion, and also to escape from the degraded 
position to which their profession of leather-working was 
relegated by Hinduism and to dissociate themselves from 
the Chamars. 

Mowar. — A small caste of cultivators found in the 
Chhattlsgarh country, in the Raipur and Bilaspur Districts 
and the Raigarh State. They numbered 2500 persons in 
1 90 1. The derivation of the name is obscure, but they 
themselves say that it is derived from Mow or Mowagarh, 

' Eastern India, vol. iii. p. 105. 
2 Rajendra Lai Mitra, Indo-Aryans, vol. i. pp. 222, 223. 

11 MO WAR 251 

a town in the Jhansi District of the United Provinces, and 
they also call themselves Mahuwar or the inhabitants of 
Mow. They say that the Raja of Mowagarh, under whom 
they were serving, desired to marry the daughter of one of 
their Sirdars (headmen), because she was extremely beautiful, 
but her father refused, and when the Raja persisted in his 
desire they left the place in a body and came to Ratanpur 
in the time of Raja Blmbaji, in A.D. 1770. A Bilaspur 
writer states that the Mowars are an offshoot from the 
Rajwar Rajputs of Sarguja State. Colonel Dalton writes ^ 
of the Rajwar Rajputs of Sarguja and other adjoining States 
that they are peaceably disposed cultivators, who declare 
themselves to be fallen Kshatriyas ; but he remarks later 
that they are probably aborigines, as they do not conform to 
Hindu customs, and they are skilled in a dance called Chailo, 
which he considers to be of Dravidian origin. In another 
place he remarks that the Rajwars of Bengal admit that they 
are derived from the miscegenation of Kurmis and Kols. 
The fact that the Mowars of Sarangarh make a representation 
of a bow and arrow on their documents, instead of signing 
their names, affords some support to the theory that they 
are probably a branch of one of the aboriginal tribes. The 
name may be derived from luowa, a radish, as the Mowars of 
Bilaspur are engaged principally in garden cultivation. 

The Mowars have no subcastes, but are divided into a 
number of exogamous groups, principally of a totemistic 
nature. Those of the Surajha or sun sept throw away 
their earthen pots on the occasion of an eclipse, and those 
of the Hataia or elephant sept will not ride on an elephant 
and worship that animal at the Dasahra festival. Members 
of other septs named after the cobra, the crow, the monkey 
and the tiger will not kill their totem animal, and when they 
see the dead body of one of its species they throw away 
their earthen cooking-pots as a sign of mourning. The 
marriage of persons belonging to the same sept and also 
that of first cousins is prohibited. If an unmarried girl is 
seduced by a man of the caste she becomes his wife and 
is not expelled, but the caste will not eat food cooked by 
her. But a girl going wrong with an outsider is finally cast 
' Ethnology of Bengal, p. 326. 



out. The marriage and other social customs resemble those 
of the Kurmis, The caste employ Brahmans at their cere- 
monies and have a great regard for them. Their gurus or 
spiritual preceptors are Bairagis and Gosains. They eat the 
flesh of clean animals and a few drink liquor, but most of 
them abstain from it. Their women are tattooed on the 
arms and hands with figures intended to represent deer, 
flies and other animals and insects. The caste say that they 
were formerly employed as soldiers under the native chiefs, 
but they are now all cultivators. They grow all kinds of 
grain and vegetables, except turmeric and onions. A few of 
them are landowners, and the majority tenants. Very few 
are constrained to labour for hire. In appearance the men 
are generally strong and healthy, and of a dark complexion. 

I. Origin Murha. — A Dravidian caste of navvies and labourers 

°^*'''^ found in Jubbulpore and the adjoining Districts, to the 
number of about 1500 persons. The name Murha has been 
held to show that the caste are connected with the Munda 
tribe. The Murhas, however, call themselves also Khare 
Bind Kewat and Lunia or Nunia (salt- maker), and in 
Jubbulpore they give these two names as subdivisions of 
the caste. And these names indicate that the caste are 
an offshoot of the large Bind tribe of Bengal and northern 
India, though in parts of the Central Provinces they have 
probably been recruited from the Kols or Mundas. Sir 
H. Risley ^ records a story related by the Binds to the 
effect that they and the Nunias were formerly one, and 
that the existing Nunias are descended from a Bind who 
consented to dig a grave for a Muhammadan king and was 
put out of caste for doing so. And he remarks that the 
Binds may be a true primitive tribe and the Nunias a 
functional group differentiated from them by taking to the 
manufacture of earth salt. This explanation of the relation- 
.ship of the Binds and Nunias seems almost certainly correct. 
In the United Provinces the Binds are divided into the Khare 
and Dhusia or first and second subcastes, and the Khare 
Binds also call themselves Kewat." And the Murhas of 

' 7'yibes and Castes of Bcnjfa!, nrt. - Crooke's Tribes and Castes, art. 

Bind. Bind. 


Narsinghpur call themselves Khare Bind Kevvats, though the 
other Kewats repudiate all connection with them. There 
seems thus to be no doubt that the Murhas of these Provinces 
are another offshoot of the Bind tribe like the Nunias, who 
have taken up the profession of navvies and earthworkers 
and thus become a separate caste. Mr. Hira Lai notes that 
the Narsinghpur District contains a village Nonia, which is 
inhabited solely by Murhas who call themselves Khare Bind 
Kewat. As the village is no doubt named Nonia or Nunia 
after them, we thus have an instance of all the three designa- 
tions being applied to the same set of persons. The Murhas 
say that they came into Narsinghpur from Rewah, and they 
still speak the Bagheli dialect, though the current vernacular 
of the locality is Bundeli. The Binds themselves derive their 
name from the Vindhya (Bindhya) hills.^ They relate that 
a traveller passing by the Vindhya hills heard a strange flute- 
like sound coming out of a clump of bamboos. He cut a 
shoot and took from it a fleshy substance, which afterwards 
grew into a man, the supposed ancestor of the Binds. In 
Mandia the Murhas say that the difference between them- 
selves and the Nunias is that the latter make field-embank- 
ments and other earthwork, while the Murhas work in stone 
and build bridges. According to their own story they were 
brought to Mandia from their home in Eastern Oudh more 
than ten generations ago by a Gond king of the Garha- 
Mandla dynasty for the purpose of building his fort or castle. 
He gave them two villages for their maintenance which they 
have now lost. The caste has, however, probably received 
some local accretions and in Mandia some Murhas appear 
to be Kols ; members of this tribe are generally above the 
average in bodily strength and are in considerable request 
for employment on earth- and stone-work. 

In Narsinghpur the Murhas appear to have no regular 2. Mar- 
exogamous divisions. Some of them remember the names of '"'^^'^ 

.'^ . customs. 

their kJieros or ancestral villages and do not marry with 
families belonging to the same khero, but this is not a regular 
rule of the caste. Generally speaking, persons descended 
through males from a common ancestor do not intermarry 
so long as they remember the relationship. In Mandia they 

' Tribes and Castes of Bengal, loc. cil. 


have five divisions, of which the highest is Purbia, The 
name Purbia (Eastern) is commonly apphed in the Central 
Provinces to persons coming from Oudh, and in this case 
the Purbia Murhas are probably the latest immigrants from 
home and have a superior status on this account. Up till 
recently they practised hypergamy with the other groups, 
taking daughters from them in marriage, but not giving 
their daughters to them. This rule is now, however, breaking 
down on account of the difficulty they find in getting their 
daughters married. The children of brothers and sisters 
may marry in some places, but in others neither they nor 
their children may marry with each other. Anta Santa or 
the exchange of girls between two families is permitted. 
The bridegroom's father has to pay from five to twenty 
rupees as a chari or bride-price to the girl's father, which 
sum is regarded as the remuneration of the latter for having 
brought up his daughter. In the case of the daughter of a 
headman the bride-price is sometimes as high as Rs. 150. 
In Damoh a curious survival of marriage by capture remains. 
The bridegroom's party give a ram or he-goat to the bride's 
party and these take it to their shed, cut its head off and 
hang it by the side of the khdm or marriage-pole. The 
brother-in-law of the bridegroom or of his father then sallies 
forth to bring back the head of the animal, but is opposed 
by the women of the bride's party, who belabour him and 
his friends with sticks, brooms and rolling-pins. But in the 
end the head is always taken avva)\ The binding portion 
of the marriage is the bhdnwar or walking round the sacred 
post. When the bride is leaving for her husband's house 
the women of her party take seven balls of flour with 
burning wicks thrust into them, and place them in a 
winnowing-fan. They wave this round the bride's head and 
then throw the balls and after them the fan over the litter 
in which the bride is seated. The bridegroom's party must 
catch the fan, and if they let it fall to the ground they are 
much laughed at for their clumsiness. When the pair arrive 
at the bridegroom's house, the fan is again waved over their 
heads ; and a cloth is spread before the house, on which 
seven burning wicks are placed like the previous ones. The 
bride walks quickly over the cloth to the house and the 


bridegroom must keep pace with her, picking up the burning 
flour balls as he goes. When the pair arrive at the house 
the bridegroom's sister shuts the door and will not open it 
until she is given a present. Divorce and the remarriage of 
widows are permitted. 

The caste worship the ordinary Hindu deities. Well- 3. Funeral 
to-do members burn their dead and the poorer ones bury ""''^" 
them. The corpse is usually placed with the head to the 
south as is the custom among the primitive tribes, but in 
some localities the Hindu fashion of laying the head to the 
north has been adopted. Two pice are thrown down by 
the grave or h\xx\\\\\o.gkat to buy the site, and these are 
taken by the sweeper. The ashes are collected on the third 
day and thrown into a river. The usual period of mourning 
is only three days, but it is sometimes extended to nine 
days when the chief mourner is unable to feed the caste- 
fellows on the third day, and the feast may in case of 
necessity be postponed to any time within six months of 
the death. The chief mourner puts on a new white cloth 
and eats nothing but rice and pulse without salt. 

The caste are employed on all kinds of earthwork, such 4. Occupa- 
as building walls, excavating trenches, and making embank- '°"' 
ments in fields. Their trade implements consist of a pick- 
axe, a basket, and a thin wooden hod to fill the earth into 
the basket. The Murha invokes these as follows : " Oh ! my 
lord the basket, my lord the pickaxe shaped like a snake, 
and my lady the hod, come and eat up those who do not pay 
me for my work ! " The Murhas are strict in their rules about 
food and will not accept cooked food even from a Brahman, 
but notwithstanding this, their social position is so low that 
not even a sweeper would take food from them. The caste 
eat flesh and drink liquor, but abstain from fowls, pork and 
beef. They engage Brahmans on the occasion of births and 
marriages, but not usually for funerals. The women tattoo 
their bodies after marriage, and the charge for this should 
always be paid by the maternal uncle's wife, the paternal 
aunt, or some other similar relation of the girl. The fact 
that among most Hindus a girl must be tattooed before 
leaving for her husband's house, and that the cost of the 
operation must always be paid for by her own family, seems 



to indicate that tattooing was formerly a rite of puberty for 
the female sex. A wife must not mention the name of her 
husband or of any person who stands in the relation of 
father, mother, uncle or aunt to him. Parents do not call 
their eldest son by his proper name, but by some pet name. 
Women are impure for five days during menstruation and 
are not allowed to cook for that period. The Murhas have 
a caste panchdyat or committee, the head of which is known 
as Patel or Mukhia, the office being hereditary. He receives 
a part of all fines levied for the commission of social offences. 
In appearance the caste are dark and short of stature, and 
have some resemblance to the Kols. 
5- In conclusion, I reproduce one of the songs which the 

women sing as they are carrying the basketfuls of earth or 
stones at their work ; in the original each line consists of 
two parts, the last words of which sometimes rhyme with 
each other : 

Our mother Nerbudda is very kind ; blow, wind, we are hot with labour. 

He said to the Maina : Go, carry my message to my love. 

The red ants climb up the mango-tree ; and the daughter follows her 

mother's way. 
I have no money to give her even lime and tobacco ; I am poor, so how 

can I tell her of my love. 
The boat has gone down on the flood of the Nerbudda ; the fisher- 
woman is weeping for her husband. 
She ^has no bangles on her arm nor necklace on her neck ; she has no 

beauty, but seeks her lovers throughout the village. 
Bread from the girdle, curry from the lota ; let us go, beloved, the 

moon is shining. 
The leaves of gram have been plucked from the plants ; I think much 

on Dadaria, but she does not come. 
The love of a stranger is as a dream : think not of him, beloved, he 

cannot be yours. 
Twelve has struck and it is thirteen time (past the time of labour) ; oh, 

overseer, let your poor labourers go. 
The betel-leaf is pressed in the mouth (and gives pleasure) ; attractive 

eyes delight the heart. 
Catechu, areca and black cloves ; my heart's secret troubles me in my 

The Nerbudda came and swept away the rubbish (from the works) ; fly 

away, bees, do not perch on my cloth. 
The colour does not come on the wheat ; her youth is passing, but she 

cannot yet drape her cloth on her body. 
Like the sight of rain-drops splashing on the ground ; so beautiful is 

she to look upon. 



It rains and the hidden streams in the woodland are filled (and come 

to view) ; hide as long as you may, some day you must be seen. 
The mahua flowers are falling from the trees on the hill ; leave me 

your cloth so that I may know you will return. 
He went to the bazar and brought back a cocoanul ; it is green without, 

but insects are eating the core. 
He went to the hill and cut strings of bamboo ; you cannot drape your 

cloth, you have wound it round your body. 
The coral necklace hangs on the peg ; if you become the second wife 

of my husband I shall give you clothes. 
She put on her clothes and went to the forest ; she met her lover and 

said you are welcome to me. 
He went to the bazar and bought potatoes ; but if he had loved me he 

would have brought me liquor. 
The fish in the river are on the look-out ; the Brahman's daughter is 

bathing with her hair down. 
The arhar-stumps stand in the field ; I loved one of another caste, but 

must give him up. 
He ate betel and coloured his teeth ; his beloved came from without 

and knew him. 
The ploughmen are gone to the field ; my clever writer is gone to the 

The Nerbudda flows like a bent bow ; a beautiful youth is standing in 

The broken areca-nuts lie in the forest ; when a man comes to mis- 
fortune no one will help him. 
The broken areca-nuts cannot be mended ; and two hearts which are 

sundered cannot be joined. 
Ask me for five rupees and I will give you twenty-five ; but I will not 

give my lover for the whole world. 
I will put bangles on my arm ; when the other wife sees me she will 

die of jealousy. 
Break the bangles which your husband gave you ; and put others on 

your wrists in my name. 

my lover, give me bangles ; make me armlets, for I am content 

with you. 
My lover went to the bazar at Lakhanpur ; but he has not brought me 
even a choli- that I liked. 

1 had gone to the bazar and bought fish ; she is so ugly that the flies 

would not settle on her. 

Nagfasia, Naksia. — A primitive tribe found principally 
in the Chota Nagpur States. They now number 16,000 
persons in the Central Provinces, being returned almost 
entirely from Jashpur and Sarguja. The census returns are, 
however, liable to be inaccurate as the Nagasias frequently 
call themselves Kisan, a term which is also applied to the 

' The clever writer referred to in the preceding line. ^ Breast-cloth. 



Oraons. The Nagasias say that they are the true Kisans 
whereas the Oraons are only so by occupation. The Oraons, 
on the other hand, call the Nagasias Kisada. The tribe 
derive their name from the Nag or cobra, and they say that 
somebody left an infant in the forest of Setambu and a cobra 
came and spread its hood over the child to protect him from 
the rays of the sun. Some Mundas happened to pass by 
and on seeing this curious sight they thought the child must 
be destined to greatness, so they took him home and made 
him their king, calling him Nagasia, and from him the tribe 
are descended. The episode of the snake is, of course, a 
stock legend related by many tribes, but the story appears 
to indicate that the Nagasias are an offshoot of the Mundas ; 
and this hypothesis is strengthened by the fact that Nagbasia 
is often used as an alternative name for the Mundas by 
their Hindu neighbours. The term Nagbasia is supposed to 
mean the original settlers {basia) in Nag (Chota Nagpur). 

The tribe are divided into the Telha, Dhuria and 
Senduria groups. The Telhas are so called because at the 
marriage ceremony they mark the forehead of the bride with 
tel (oil), while the Dhurias instead of oil use dust {dhur) 
taken from the sole of the bridegroom's foot, and the 
Sendurias like most Hindu castes employ vermilion {sendur) 
for this purpose. The Telhas and Dhurias marry with each 
other,- but not with the Sendurias, who consider themselves 
to be superior to the others and use the term Nagbansia or 
' Descendants of the Snake ' as their tribal name. The 
Telha and Dhuria women do not wear glass bangles on their 
arms but only bracelets of brass, while the Sendurias wear 
glass bangles and also armlets above the elbow. Telha 
women do not wear nose-rings or tattoo their bodies, while 
the Sendurias do both. The Telhas say that the tattooing 
needle and vermilion, which they formerly employed in 
their marriages, were stolen from them by Wagdeo or the 
tiger god. So they hit upon sesamum oil as a substitute, 
which must be pressed for ceremonial purposes in a bamboo 
basket by unmarried boys using a plough-yoke. This is 
probably, Mr. Hira Lai remarks, merely the primitive method 
of extracting oil, prior to the invention of the Teli's ghdni 
or oil-press ; and the practice is an instance of the common 


rule that articles employed in ceremonial and religious rites 
should be prepared by the ancient and primitive methods 
which for ordinary purposes have been superseded by more 
recent labour-saving inventions. 

Nahal, Nihal.^ — A forest tribe who are probably a i. The 
mixture of Bhils and Korkus. In igii they numbered f"^^ f"'^ 

-^ ■' _ Its sub- 

I 2,000 persons, of whom 8000 belonged to the Hoshangabad, divisions. 
Nimar and Bctul Districts, and nearly 4000 to Berar. They 
were classed at the census as a subtribe of Korkus, Accord- 
ing to one story they are descended from a Bhll father and 
a Korku mother, and the writer of the KhdndesJi Gazetteer 
calls them the most savage of the Bhils. But in the Central 
Provinces their family or sept names are the same as those 
of the Korkus, and they speak the Korku language. Mr. 
Kitts " says that the Korkus who first went to Berar found 
the Nahals in possession of the Melghat hills. Gradually 
the latter caste lost their power and became the village 
drudges of the former. He adds that the Nahals were fast 
losing their language, and the younger generation spoke 
only Korku. The two tribes were very friendly, and the 
Nahals acknowledged the superior position of the Korkus. 
This, if it accurately represents the state of things prevailing 
for a long period, and was not merely an incidental feature 
of their relative position at the time Mr. Kitts' observations 
were made, would tend to show that the Nahals were the 
older tribe and had been subjected by the Korkus, just as 
the Korkus themselves and the Baigas have given way to the 
Gonds. Mr. Crosthwaite also states that the Nahal is the 
drudge of the Korku and belongs to a race which is 
supposed to have been glorious before the Korku star arose, 
and which is now fast dying out. In any case there is no 
doubt that the Nahals are a very mixed tribe, as they will 
even now admit into the community Gonds, Korkus and 
nearly all the Hindu castes, though in some localities they 
will not eat from the other tribes and the lower Hindu castes 
and therefore refuse to admit them. There are, moreover, 

^ This article is mainly compiled Records, Betul. 
from papers by Mr. Hira Lai and 15;ibu ^ Berar Census Report (1881), 

Gulab Singh, Superintendent of Land p. 158. 

26o NAHAL part 

two subdivisions of the caste called Korku and Marathi 
Nahals respectively. The latter are more Hinduised than 
the former and disclaim any connection with the Korkus. 
The Nahals have totemistic exogamous septs. Those of the 
Kasa sept worship a tortoise and also a bell-metal plate, 
which is their family god. They never eat off a bell-metal 
plate except on one day in the month of Magh (January), 
when they worship it. The members of the Nagbel sept 
worship the betel-vine or ' snake-creeper,' and refrain from 
chewing betel-leaves, and they also worship the Nag or 
cobra and do not kill it, thus having a sort of double totem. 
The Bhawaria sept, named after the bJiaunr or black bee, do 
not eat honey, and if they see a person taking the honey- 
comb from a nest they will run away. The Khadia sept 
worship the spirits of their ancestors enshrined in a heap of 
stones {khad), or according to another account they worship 
a snake which sits on a heap of pebbles. The Surja sept 
worship Surya or the sun by offering him a fowl in the 
month of Pus (December-January), and some members of 
the sept keep a fast every Sunday. The Saoner sept 
worship the san or flax plant. 

2. Mar- Marriage is prohibited between members of the same 
riage. sept, but there are no other restrictions and first cousins 

may marry. Both sexes usually marry when adult, and 
sexual license before wedlock is tolerated. A Brahman is 
employed only for fixing the date of the ceremony. The 
principal part of the marriage is the knotting together of 
the bride's and bridegroom's clothes on two successive days. 
They also gamble with tamarind seeds, and it is considered 
a lucky union if the bridegroom wins. A bride-price is 
usually paid consisting of Rs. 1-4 to Rs. 5 in cash, some 
grain and a piece of cloth for the bride's mother. The 
remarriage of widov/s is allowed, and the couple go five 
times round a bamboo stick which is held up to represent a 
spear, the ceremony being called barchhi se bhdnwar phirna 
or the marriage of the spear. 

3. Rdi- The Nahals worship the forest god called Jharkhandi in 
gion. ^}^g month of Chait, and until this rite has been performed 

they do not use the leaves or fruits of the palds} aonld ^ or 

' Butea fro7tdosa. ' Phyllanthiis emblica. 


mango trees. When the god is worshipped they collect 
branches and leaves of these trees and offer cooked food to 
them and thereafter commence using the new leaves, and the 
fruit and timber. They also worship the ordinary village 
godlings. The dead are buried, except in the case of 
members of the Surja or sun sept, whose corpses are burnt. 
Cooked food is offered at the grave for four days after the 

The Nahals were formerly a community of hill-robbers, 4. Occupa- 
* Nahal, Bhil, Koli ' being the phrase generally used in old "°"' 
documents to designate the marauding bands of the western 
Satpura hills. The Raja of Jitgarh and Mohkot in Nimar 
has a long account in his genealogy of a treacherous massacre 
of a whole tribe of Nahals by his ancestor in Akbar's time, 
in recognition of which the Jitgarh pargana was granted to 
the family. Mr. Kitts speaks of the Nahals of Berar as 
having once been much addicted to cattle-lifting, and this 
propensity still exists in a minor degree in the Central 
Provinces, accentuated probably by the fact that a consider- 
able number of Nahals follow the occupation of graziers. 
Some of them are also village watchmen, and another special 
avocation of theirs is the collection of the oil of the marking- 
nut tree {Semecarpus anacardiuin). This is to some extent a 
dangerous trade, as the oil causes swellings on the body, 
besides staining the skin and leaving a peculiar odour. The 
workers wrap a fourfold layer of cloth round their fingers with 
ashes between each fold, while the rest of the body is also 
protected by cloth when gathering the nuts and pounding 
them to extract the oil. At the end of the day's work 
powdered tamarind and ghi are rubbed on the whole body. 
The oil is a stimulant, and is given to women after delivery 
and to persons suffering from rheumatism. 

The social status of the Nahals is very low and they cat 5. Social 
the flesh of almost all animals, while those who graze cattle ^'''^'"^• 
eat beef. Cow-killing is not regarded as an offence. They 
are also dirty and do not bathe for weeks together. To get 
maggots in a wound is, however, regarded as a grave offence, 
and the sufferer is put out of the village and has to live alone 
until he recovers. 



1. Structure of the caste. 12. Significance of removal of t]ie 

2. Marriage and other custotns. hair a?td shavi?ig the head. 

3. Occicpation. 13. Shaving the head by moui'ners. 

4. Other services. 14. Hair offerings. 

5. Duties at weddings. 15. Keeping hair tmshorn during 

6. The barber-surgeon. a vow. 

7. A barber at the court of Otidh. 1 6. Disposal of cut hair and nails. 

8. Character and position of the 17. St/pcrstitions about shaving 

barber. the hair. 

9. Beliefs about hair. 1 8. Reasons why the hair was 

10. Hair of kings and priests. co?tsidered the source of 

1 1 . The beard. strength. 

I. struc- Nai, Nao, Mhali, Hajjam, Bhandari, Mangrala/ — The 

ture of occupational caste of barbers. The name is said to be 

ine caste. _ ^ 

derived from the Sanskrit ndpita, according to some a 
corruption of sndpitri, one who bathes. In Bundelkhand he 
is also known as Khawas, which was a title for the attendant 
on a grandee ; and Birtiya, or ' He that gets his maintenance 
iyritti) from his constituents.' ^ Mhali is the Marathi name 
for the caste, Bhandari the Uriya name and Mangala the 
Telugu name. The caste numbered nearly 1 90,000 persons 
in the Central Provinces in 191 1, being distributed over all 
Districts. Various legends of the usual type are related of 
its origin, but, as Sir. H. Risley observes, it is no doubt 
wholly of a functional character. The subcastes in the 
Central Provinces entirely bear out this view, as they are 

' This article is compiled from First Assistant Master, Sironcha, 

papers by Mr. Chatteiji, retired Chanda ; and from the Central 

E.A.C., Jubbulpore ; Professor Sadii- Provinces District Gazetteers, 
shiva Jairam, M.A., Hislop College, '^ Mr. Crooke's Tribes and Castes, 

Nagpur ; and Mr. C. Shrinivas Naidu, art. Nai. 



very numerous and principally of the territorial type : 
Telange of the Telugu country, Marathe, Pardeshi or 
northerners, Jharia or those of the forest country of the 
Wainganga Valley, Bandhaiya or those of Bandhogarh, 
Barade of Berar, Bundelkhandi, Marwari, Mathuria from 
Mathura, Gadhwaria from Garha near Jubbulpore, Lanjia 
from Lanji in Balaghat, Malwi from Malwa, Nimari from 
Nimar, Deccanc, Gujarati, and so on. Twenty-six divisions 
in all are given. The exogamous groups are also of different 
types, some of them being named after Brahman saints, as 
Gautam, Kashyap, Kosil, Sandil and Bharadwaj ; others 
after Rajput clans as Surajvansi, Jaduvansi, Solanki and 
Panwar ; while others are titular or totemistic, as Naik, 
leader ; Seth, banker; Rawat, chief; Nagesh, cobra ; Bagh, a 
tiger ; Bhadrawa, a fish. 

The exogamous groups are known as kJiero or kid, and 2. Mar- 
marriage between members of the same group is prohibited, oth^r^" 
Girls are usually wedded between the ages of eight and customs, 
twelve and boys between fifteen and twenty. A girl who 
goes wrong before marriage is finally expelled from the caste. 
The wedding ceremony follows the ritual prevalent in the 
locality as described in the articles on Kurmi and Kunbi. 
At an ordinary wedding the expenses on the girl's side 
amount to about Rs. 150, and on the boy's to Rs. 200. 
The remarriage of widows is permitted. In the northern 
Districts the widow may wed the younger brother of her 
deceased husband, but in the Maratha country she may not 
be married to any of his relatives. Divorce may be effected 
at the instance of the husband before the caste committee, 
and a divorced woman is at liberty to marry again. The 
Nais worship all the ordinary Hindu deities. On the 
Dasahra and Diwali festivals they wash and revere their 
implements, the razor, scissors and nail-pruners. They pay 
regard to omens. It is unpropitious to sneeze or hear the 
report of a gun when about to commence any business ; and 
when a man is starting on a journey, if a cat, a squirrel, a 
hare or a snake should cross the road in front of him he will 
give it up and return home. The bodies of the dead are 
usually burnt. In Chhattisgarh the poor throw the corpses 
of their dead into the Mahanadi. and the bodies of children 


dying under one year of age were until recently buried in 
the courtyard of the house. The period of mourning for 
adults is ten days and for children three days. The chief 
mourner must take only one meal a day, which he cooks 
himself until the ceremony of the tenth day is perform.ed. 
3. Occupa- " The barber's trade," Mr. Crooke states,^ " is undoubtedly 

tion. Q^ great antiquity. In the Veda we read, ' Sharpen us like 

the razor in the hands of the barber ' ; and again, ' Driven 
by the wind, Agni shaves the hair of the earth like the 
barber shaving a beard.' " In early times they must have 
enjoyed considerable dignity ; Upali the barber was the 
first propounder of the law of the Buddhist church. The 
village barber's leather bag contains a small mirror {drst), a 
pair of iron pincers {chiinta), a leather strap, a comb {kattght), 
a piece of cloth about a yard square and some oil in a phial. 
He shaves the faces, heads and armpits of his customers, and 
cuts the nails of both their hands and feet. He uses cold 
water in summer and hot in winter, but no soap, though this 
has now been introduced in towns. For the poorer cultivators 
he does a rapid scrape, and this process is called '■ asudJiaV 
or a ' tearful shave,' because the person undergoing it is often 
constrained to weep. The barber acquires the knowledge of 
his art by practice on the more obliging of his customers, 
hence the proverb, ' The barber's son learns his trade on the 
heads of fools.' The village barber is usually paid by a 
contribution of grain from the cultivators, calculated in some 
cases according to the number of ploughs of land possessed 
by each, in others according to the number of adult males in 
the family. In Saugor he receives 20 lbs. of grain annually 
for each adult male or 22!- lbs. per plough of land, besides 
presents of a basket of grain at seed-time and a sheaf at 
harvest. Cultivators are usually shaved about once a fort- 
night. In towns the barber's fee may vary from a pice to 
two annas for a shave, which is, as has been seen, a much 
more protracted operation with a Hindu than with a European. 
It is said that Berfir is now so rich that even ordinary 
cultivators can afford to pay the barber two annas (2d.) for 
a single shave, or the same price as in the suburbs of 

' Tribes and Castes, art. Nai, para. 5- 


After he has shaved a client the barber pinches and rubs 4. Other 
his arms, presses his fingers together and cracks the joints ''^'■^"='^^- 
of each finger, this last action being perhaps meant to avert 
evil spirits. He also does massage, a very favourite method 
of treatment in India, and also inexpensive as compared 
with Europe. For one rupee a month in towns the barber 
will come and rub a man's legs five or ten minutes every 
day. Cultivators have their legs rubbed in the sowing 
season, when the labour is intensely hard owing to the 
necessity of sowing all the land in a short period. If a 
man is well-to-do he may have his whole head and body 
rubbed with scented oil. Landowners have often a barber 
as a family servant, the office descending from father to 
son. Such a man will light his master's diilain (pipe-bowl) 
or huqqa (water-pipe), clean and light lamps, prepare his 
bed, tell his master stories to send him to sleep, act as 
escort for the women of the family Vv-hen they go on a 
journey and arrange matches for the children. The barber's 
wife attends on women in child-birth after the days of 
pollution are over, and rubs oil on the bodies of her clients, 
pares their nails and paints their feet with red dye at 
marriages and on other festival occasions. 

The barber has also numerous and important duties ^ in 5. Duties 
connection with marriages and other festival occasions. He \2^^ 
acts as the Brahman's assistant, and to the lower castes, 
who cannot employ a Brahman, he is himself the matrimonial 
priest. The important part which he plays in marriage 
ceremonies has led to his becoming the matchmaker among 
all respectable castes. He searches for a suitable bride or 
bridegroom, and is often sent to inspect the other party to 
a match and report his or her defects to his clients. He 
may arrange the price or dowry, distribute the invitations 
and carry the presents from one house to the other. He 
supplies the leaf-plates and cups which are used at weddings, 
as the family's stock of metal vessels is usually quite 
inadequate for the number of guests. The price of these 
is about 4 annas (4d.) a hundred. He also provides the 
torans or strings of leaves which are hung over the door of 

^ The following account is largely taken from Mr. Nesfield's Brief View of 
the Caste System, pp. 42, 43. 


the house and round the marriage-shed. At the feast the 
barber is present to hand to the guests water, betel-leaf and 
pipes as they may desire. He also partakes of the food, 
seated at a short distance from the guests, in the intervals 
of his service. He lights the lamps and carries the torches 
during the ceremony. Hence he was known as Masalchi 
or torch-bearer, a name now applied by Europeans to a 
menial servant who lights and cleans the lamps and washes 
the plates after meals. The barber and his wife act as 
prompters to the bride and bridegroom, and guide them 
through the complicated ritual of the wedding ceremony, 
taking the couple on their knees if they are children, and 
otherwise sitting behind them. The barber has a pre- 
scriptive right to receive the clothes in which the bride- 
groom goes to the bride's house, as on the latter's arrival 
he is always presented with new clothes by the bride's 
father. As the bridegroom's clothes may be an ancestral 
heirloom, a compact is often made to buy them back from 
the barber, and he may receive as much as Rs. 50 in lieu 
of them. When the first son is born in a family the barber 
takes a long bamboo stick, wraps it round with cloth and 
puts an earthen pot over it and carries this round to the 
relatives, telling them the good news. He receives a small 
present from each household. 
6. The The barber also cleans the ears of his clients and cuts 

their nails, and is the village surgeon in a small way. He 
cups and bleeds his patients, applies leeches, takes out 
teeth and lances boils. In this capacity he is the counter- 
part of the barber-surgeon of mediaeval Europe. The Hindu 
physicians are called Baid, and are, as a rule, a class of 
Brahmans. They derive their knowledge from ancient 
Sanskrit treatises on medicine, which are considered to have 
divine authority. Consequently they think it unnecessary 
to acquire fresh knowledge by experiment and observation, 
as they suppose the perfect science of medicine to be con- 
tained in their sacred books. As these books probably do 
not describe surgical operations, of which little or nothing 
was known at the time when they were written, and as 
surgery involves contact with blood and other impure 
substances, the Baids do not practise it, and the villagers 



are left to get on as best they can with the ministrations of 
the barber. It is interesting to note that a similar state 
of things appears to have prevailed in Europe. The monks 
were the early practitioners of medicine and were forbidden 
to practise surgery, which was thus left to the barber- 
chirurgeon. The status of the surgeon was thus for long 
much below that of the physician.^ The mediaeval barber 
of Europe kept a bottle of blood in his window, to indicate 
that he undertook bleeding and the application of leeches, 
and the coloured bottles in the chemist's window may have 
been derived from this. It is also said that the barber's 
pole originally served as a support for the patient to lean 
on while he was being bled, and those barbers who did the 
work of bleeding patients painted their poles in variegated 
red and white stripes to show it. 

Perhaps the most successful barber known to Indian 7. a 
history was not a Hindu at all, but a Peninsular and Oriental j^^'j^^'" 
Company's cabin-boy, who became the barber of one of the court 
last kings of Oudh, NasIr-ud-Din, in the early part of the 
nineteenth century, and rose to the position of a favourite 
courtier. He was entrusted with the supply of every 
European article used at court, and by degrees became a 
regular guest at the royal table, and sat down to take dinner 
with the king as a matter of right ; nor would his majesty 
taste a bottle of wine opened by any other hands than the 
barber's." This was, however, a wise precaution as it turned 
out, since after he had finally been forced to part with the 
barber the king was poisoned by his own relatives. The 
barber was also made keeper of the royal menagerie, for 
which he supplied the animals and their food, and made 
enormous profits. The following is an account of the pre- 
sentation of the barber's monthly bill of expenses : ^ "It 
was after tiffin, or lunch, when we usually retired from the 
palace until dinner-time at nine o'clock, that the favourite 
entered with a roll of paper in his hand. In India, long 
documents, legal and commercial, are usually written, not 
in books or on successive sheets, but on a long roll, strip 

^ Eighteenth Centiny Middle-Class - Private Life of an Eastern King, 

Life, by C. S. Torres, in the Nine- p. 17. 
tee nth Century and After, Sept. 1910. ^ Lb idem, \x 107. 



8. Char- 
acter and 
of the 

being joined to strip for that purpose, and the whole rolled 
up like a map. 

" ' Ha, Khan ! ' said the king, observing him ; ' the 
monthly bill, is it ? ' 

" ' It is, your majesty,' was the smiling reply. 

" ' Come, out with it ; let us see the extent. Unrol it, 

" The king was in a playful humour ; and the barber 
was always in the same mood as the king. He held the 
end of the roll in his hand, and threw the rest along 
the floor, allowing it to unrol itself as it retreated. It 
reached to the other side of the long apartment — a 
goodly array of items and figures, closely written too. 
The king wanted it measured. A measure was brought 
and the bill was found to be four yards and a half long. 
I glanced at the amount ; it was upwards of Rs. 90,000, or 
;^9000 ! " ♦ 

The barber, however, encouraged the king in every form 
of dissipation and excess, until the state of the Oudh court 
became such a scandal that the king was forced by the 
British Government to dismiss him.^ He retired, it was 
said, with a fortune of ^^240,000. 

The barber is also, Mr. Low writes,^ the scandal-bearer 
and gossip-monger of the village. His cunning is proverbial, 
and he is known as Chliattisa from the saying — 

Nai hat chJiattisa 
Khai an ka pisa, 

or * A barber has thirty-six talents by which he eats at the 
expense of others.' His loquacity is shown in the proverb, 
' As the crow among birds so the barber among men.' The 
barber and the professional Brahman are considered to be 
jealous of their perquisites and unwilling to share with their 
caste-fellows, and this is exemplified in the proverb, " The 
barber, the dog and the Brahman, these three snarl at 
meeting one of their own kind." The joint association of 
the Brahman priest and the barber with marriages and 
other ceremonies has led to the saying, " As there are 

' Private Life of an Eastern King, 
P- 330. 

2 In the Baldghi'it District Gazet- 


always reeds in a river so there is always a barber with a 
Brrihman." The barber's astuteness is alluded to in the 
saying, ' Nine barbers are equal to seventy -two tailors.' 
The fact that it is the barber's duty to carry the lights in 
marriage processions has led to the proverb, " At the barber's 
wedding all arc gentlemen and it is awkward to have to 
ask somebody to carry the torch." The point of this is 
clear, though no English equivalent occurs to the mind. 
And a similar idea is expressed by ' The barber washes 
the feet of others but is ashamed to wash his own.' It 
would appear from these proverbs that the Nai is considered 
to enjoy a social position somewhat above his deserts. 
Owing to the nature of his duties, which make him a 
familiar inmate of the household and bring him into contact 
with the persons of his high-caste clients, the caste of the 
Nai is necessarily considered to be a pure one and Brahmans 
will take water from his hands. But, on the other hand, 
his calling is that of a village menial and has also some 
elements of impurity, as in cupping which involves contact 
with blood, and in cutting the nails and hair of the corpse 
before cremation. He is thus looked down upon as a 
menial and also considered as to some extent impure. No 
member of a cultivating caste would salute a barber first or 
look upon him as an equal, though Brahmans put them on 
the same level of ceremonial purity by taking water from 
both. The barber's loquacity and assurance have been made 
famous by the Arabian Nights, but they have perhaps been 
affected by the more strenuous character of life, and his con- 
versation does not flow so freely as it did. Often he now 
confines himself to approving and adding emphasis to any 
remarks of the patron and greeting any of his little witticisms 
with bursts of obsequious laughter. In Madras, Mr. Pandian 
states, the village barber, like the washerman, is known as the 
son of the village. If a customer does not pay him his dues, 
he lies low, and when he has begun to shave the defaulter 
engages him in a dispute and says something to excite his 
anger. The latter will then become abusive to the barber, 
whom he regards as a menial, and perhaps strike him, and 
this gives the barber an opportunity to stop shaving him 
and rush off to lay a complaint at the village court-house, 


leaving his enemy to proceed home with half his head 
shaved and thus exposed to general ridicule.^ 
9. Beliefs Numerous customs appear to indicate that the hair was 

about bair. j-gg^rded as the special seat of bodily strength. The Rajput 
warriors formerly wore their hair long and never cut it, but 
trained it in locks over their shoulders. Similarly the 
Maratha soldiers wore their hair long. The Hatkars, a 
class of Maratha spearmen, might never cut their hair 
while engaged on military service. A Sikh writer states of 
Guru Govind, the founder of the militant Sikh confederacy : 
" He appeared as the tenth Avatar (incarnation of Vishnu). 
He established the Khalsa, his own sect, and by exhibiting 
singular energy, leaving the hair on his head, and seizing 
the scimitar, he smote every wicked person." " As is well 
known, no Sikh may cut his hair, and one of the five 
marks of the Sikh is the kajiga or comb, which he must 
always carry in order to keep his hair in proper order. A 
proverb states that ' The origin of a Sikh is in his hair.' ^ 
The following story, related by Sir J. Malcolm, shows the 
vital importance attached by the Sikh to his hair and 
beard : " Three inferior agents of Sikh chiefs were one day 
in my tent. I was laughing and joking with one of them, 
a Khalsa Sikh, who said he had been ordered to attend me 
to Calcutta. Among other subjects of our mirth I rallied 
him -on trusting himself so much in my power. ' Why, 
what is the worst,' he said, ' that you can do to me ? ' I 
passed my hand across my chin, imitating the act of 
shaving. The man's face was in an instant distorted with 
rage and his sword half-drawn. ' You are ignorant,' he said 
to me, ' of the offence you have given ; I cannot strike you 
who are above me, and the friend of my master and the 
state ; but no power,' he added, indicating the Khalsa 
Sikhs, ' shall save these fellows who dared to smile at your 
action.' It was with the greatest difficulty and only by the 
good offices of some Sikh Chiefs that I was able to pacify 
his wounded honour." * These instances appear to show 

' D. B. Pandian, Indian Village ^ Quoted in Sir D. Ibbetson's 

Life, under Barber. account of the Sikhs in Punjab Census 

^ Quoted in Malcohii's Sketch of Report {x^Zi). 
the Sikhs, Asiatic Researches, vol. .\i., ■• Sketch of the Sikhs, ibidem, pp. 

1810, p. 289. 284, 285. 


clearly that the Sikhs considered their hair of vital im- 
portance ; and as fighting was their object in life, it seems 
most probable that they thought their strength in war was 
bound up in it. Similarly when the ancient Spartans were 
on a military expedition purple garments were worn and 
their hair was carefully decked with wreaths, a thing which 
was never done at home.^ And when Leonidas and his 
three hundred were holding the pass of Thermopylae, and 
Xerxes sent scouts to ascertain what the Greeks were doing 
in their camp, the report was that some of them were engaged 
in gymnastics and warlike exercises, while others were merely 
sitting and combing their long hair. If the hypothesis 
already suggested is correct, the Spartan youths so engaged 
were perhaps not merely adorning themselves for death, but, 
as they thought, obtaining their full strength for battle. 
" The custom of keeping the hair unshorn during a dangerous 
expedition appears to have been observed, at least occasion- 
ally, by the Romans. Achilles kept unshorn his yellow hair, 
because his father had vowed to offer it to the river Sperchius 
if ever his son came home from the wars beyond the sea." " 
When the Bhils turned out to fight they let down their 
long hair prior to beginning the conflict with their bows 
and arrows.^ The pirates of Surat, before boarding a ship, 
drank bhang and hemp-liquor, and when they wore their 
long hair loose they gave no quarter.^ The Mundas appear 
to have formerly worn their hair long and some still do. 
Those who are converted to Christianity must cut their hair, 
but a non-Christian Munda must always keep the cJmndi or 
pigtail. If the cJiundi is very long it is sometimes tied up 
in a knot.^ Similarly the Oraons wore their hair long like 
women, gathered in a knot behind, with a wooden or iron 
comb in it. Those who are Christians can be recognised 
by the fact that they have cut off their pigtails. A man of 
the low Pardhi caste of hunters must never have his hair 
touched by a razor after he has once killed a deer. As 
already seen, every orthodox Hindu wore till recently a 

1 Professor Bliimners, Home Life of J.A.S.B. vol. xxxiv., 1S75, P- S^^- 
the Ancient Greeks, translation, p. 455. * Bombay Gazetteer, Hindus of 

2 Golden Bough, 2nd ed. vol. iii. Gujarat, p. 528. 

p. 370. ^ S. C. Roy, The Mundas and 

■* Hendley, Account of the Bhils, their Country, p. 369. 


dioti or scalp-lock, which should theoretically be as long as 
a cow's tail. Perhaps the idea was that for those who were 
not warriors it was sufficient to retain this and have the 
rest of the head shaved. The cJioti was never shaved off in 
mourning for any one but a father. The lower castes of 
Muhammadans, if they have lost several children, will allow 
the scalp-lock to grow on the heads of those subsequently 
born, dedicating it to one of their Muhammadan saints. 
The Kanjars relate of their heroic ancestor Mana that 
after he had plunged a bow so deeply into the ground that 
no one could withdraw it, he was set by the Emperor of 
Delhi to wrestle against the two most famous Imperial 
wrestlers. These could not overcome him fairly, so they 
made a stratagem, and while one provoked him in front 
the other secretly took hold of his choti behind. When 
Mana started forward his choti was thus left in the wrestler's 
hands, and though he conquered the other wrestler, showing 
him the sky as it is said, the loss of his choti deprived him 
for ever after of his virtue as a Hindu and in no small 
degree of his renown as an ancestor.^ Thus it seems clear 
that a special virtue attaches to the choti. Before every 
warlike expedition the people of Minahassa in Celebes used 
to take the locks of hair of a slain foe and dabble them 
in boiling water to extract the courage ; this infusion of 
bravery was then drunk by the warriors.^ In a modern Greek 
folk-tale a man's strength lies in three golden hairs on his 
head. When his mother plucks them out, he grows weak and 
timid and is slain by his enemies.^ The Red Indian custom 
of taking the scalp of a slain enemy and sometimes wearing 
the scalps at the waist-belt may be due to the same relief. 

In Ceram the hair might not be cut because it was the 

seat of a man's strength ; and the Gaboon negroes for the 

same reason would not allow any of their hair to pass into 

the possession of a stranger,'* 

lo. Hair If thc hair was considered to be the special source of 

and'"^^ strength and hence frequently of life, that of the kings and 

priests. priests, in whose existence the primitive tribe believed its 

> W. Kirkpatrick mJ.A.S.B., July ^ g^ q^ jj-d ed., Balder the BeatUi- 

191 1, ]). 438. fill, vol. ii. p. 103. 

^ Golden Bough, 3rd cd. vol. viii. ^ Dr. Jevons, Introduction to the 

p. 153. History of Religion, p. 45. 








own communal life to be bound up, would naturally be a 
matter of peculiar concern. That it was so has been 
shown in the Golden Bough. Two hundred years ago the 
hair and nails of the Mikado of Japan could only be cut 
when he was asleep.^ The hair of the Flamcn Dialis at Rome 
could be cut only by a freeman and with a bronze knife, 
and his hair and nails when cut had to be buried under 
a lucky tree." The Prankish kings were never allowed to 
crop their hair ; from their childhood upwards they had to 
keep it unshorn. The hair of the Aztec priests hung down 
to their hams so that the weight of it became very trouble- 
some ; for they might never crop it so long as they lived, or 
at least till they had been relieved from their office on the 
score of old age.^ In the Male Paharia tribe from the time 
that any one devoted himself to the profession of priest and 
augur his hair was allowed to grow like that of a Nazarite ; 
his power of divination entirely disappeared if he cut it.^ 
Among the Bawarias of India the Bhuva or priest of Devi 
may not cut or shave his hair under penalty of a fine of Rs. 
I o. A Parsi priest or Mobed must never be bare-headed and 
never shave his head or face.'' Professor Robertson Smith 
states : " As a diadem is in its origin nothing more than a 
fillet to confine hair that is worn long, I apprehend that in old 
times the hair of Hebrew princes like that of a Maori chief, 
was taboo, and that Absalom's long locks (2 Sam. xiv. 26) 
were the mark of his political pretensions and not of his 
vanity. When the hair of a Maori chief was cut, it was 
collected and buried in a sacred place or hung on a tree ; 
and it is noteworthy that Absalom's hair was cut annually at 
the end of the year, in the sacred season of pilgrimage, and 
that it was collected and weighed." ^ 

The importance attached by other races to the hair of n. The 
the head seems among the Muhammadans to have been con- 
centrated specially in the beard. The veneration displayed 
for the beard in this community is well known. The Prophet 
ordained that the minimum length of the beard should be 

1 Golden Bough, 2x\<kti\.yo\.\.'p.2Tfi\. ^ Bombay Gazetteer, Barsis of 

2 Ibidem, vol. i. p. 242. Gujarat, p. 226. 

^ Ibidem, vol. i. pp. 368, 369. ^ Beh'gion of the Semites, note i. pp. 

* Dalton, Ethnology of Bengal, p. 483, 484. 




274 A"^/ PART 

the breadth of five fingers. When the beard is turning grey 
they usually dye it with henna and sometimes with indigo ; 
it may be thought that a grey beard is a sign of weakness. 
The Prophet said, ' Change the whiteness of your hair, but 
not with anything black.' It is not clear why black was 
prohibited. It is said that the first Caliph Abu Bakar was 
accustomed to dye his beard red with henna, and hence 
this practice has been adopted by Muhammadans.^ The 
custom of shaving the chin is now being adopted by young 
Muhammadans, but as they get older they still let the beard 
grow. A very favourite Muhammadan oath is, ' By the beard 
of the Prophet ' ; and in Persia if a man thinks another is 
mocking him he says, ' Do you laugh at my beard ? ' Neither 
Hindus nor Muhammadans have any objection to becoming 
bald, as the head is always covered by the turban in society. 
But when a man wishes to grow a beard it is a serious draw- 
back if he is unable to do it; and he will then sometimes pluck 
the young wheat-ears and rub the juice over his cheeks and 
chin so that he may grow bearded like the wheat. Among 
the Hindus, Rajputs and Marathas, as well as the Sikhs, 
commonly wore beards, all of these being military castes. 
Both the beard and hair were considered to impart an aspect 
of ferocity to the countenance, and when the Rajputs and 
Muhammadans were going into battle they combed the hair 
and" trained the beard to project sideways from the face. 
When a Muhammadan wears a beard he must have hair in 
the centre of his chin, whereas a Hindu shaves this part. 
A Muhammadan must have his moustache short so that it 
may not touch and defile food entering the mouth. It is 
related that a certain Kazi had a small head and a very long 
beard ; and he had a dream that a man with a small head 
and a long beard must be a fool. When he woke up he 
thought this was applicable to himself As he could not 
make his head larger he decided to make his beard smaller, 
and looked for scissors to cut part of it off. But he could 
not find any scissors, and being in a hurry to shorten his 
beard he decided to burn away part of it, and set it alight. 
But the fire consumed the whole of his beard before he could 
put it out, and he then realised the truth of the dream. 

' Bombay Gazetteer, Muhainiiiadans of Gujarat, p. 52, 


If the hair was considered to be the source of a man's 12. Signi- 
strength and vigour, the removal of it would involve the renio'^^°of 
loss of this and might be considered esi^ecially to debar him the hair 
from fighting or governing. The instances given from the j^g the 
Golden Bough have shown the fear felt by many people of head, 
the consequences of the removal of their hair. The custom 
of shaving the head might also betoken the renunciation 
of the world and of the pursuit of arms. This may be the 
reason why monks shaved the head, a practice which was 
followed by Buddhist as well as Christian monks. A very 
clear case is also given by Sir James Frazer : " When the 
wicked brothers Clptaire and Childebert coveted the king- 
dom of their dead brother Clodomir, they inveigled into 
their power their little nephews, the two sons of Clodomir ; 
and having done so, they sent a messenger bearing scissors 
and a naked sword to the children's grandmother, Queen 
Clotilde, at Paris. The envoy showed the scissors and the 
sword to Clotilde, and bade her choose whether the children 
should be shorn and live, or remain unshorn and die. The 
proud queen replied that if her grandchildren were not to 
come to the throne she would rather see them dead than 
shorn. And murdered they were by their ruthless uncle 
Clotaire with his own hand." ^ In this case it appears that 
if their hair was shorn the children could not come to the 
throne but would be destined to become monks. Similarly, 
in speaking of the Georgians, Marco Polo remarks that 
they cut their hair short like churchmen." When a member 
of the religious order of the Manbhaos is initiated his head 
is shaved clean by the village barber, and the scalp-lock and 
moustache must be cut off by his guru or preceptor, this 
being perhaps the special mark of his renunciation of the 
world. The scalp-locks are preserved and made into ropes 
which some of them fasten round their loins. Members of 
the Hindu orders generally shave their scalp-locks and the 
head on initiation, probably for the same reason as the 
Manbhaos. But afterwards they often let the whole of 
their hair grow long. These men imagine that by the 
force of their austerities they will obtain divine power, so 

^ Golden Bough, 2nd ed. vol. i. p. 2 Yule's ed. i. 50, quoted in Bombay 

368. Gazetteer, Hindus of Gujarat, p. 470. 


their religious character appears to be of a different order 
from monasticism. Perhaps, therefore, they wear their hair 
long in order to increase their spiritual potency. They 
themselves now say that they do it in imitation of the god 
Siva and the ancient ascetics who had long matted locks. 
The common Hindu practice of shaving the heads of 
widows may thus be interpreted as a symbol of their 
complete renunciation of the world and of any idea of 
remarriage. It was accompanied by numerous other rules 
designed to make a widow's life a continual penance. This 
barbarous custom was formerly fairly general, at least 
among the higher castes, but is rapidly being abandoned 
except by one or two of the stricter sections of Brahmans. 
Shaving the head might also be imposed as a punishment. 
Thus in the time of the reign of the Emperor Chandraguptra 
Maurya in the fourth century B.C. it is stated that ordinary 
wounding by mutilation was punished by the corresponding 
mutilation of the offender, in addition to the amputation of 
his hand. The crime of giving false evidence was visited 
with mutilation of the extremities ; and in certain un- 
specified/ cases, serious offences were punished by the 
shaving of the offender's hair, a penalty regarded as 
specially infamous.^ The cutting off of some or all of the 
hair is at the present time a common punishment for 
caste offences. Among the Korkus a man and woman 
caught in adultery have each a lock of hair cut off. If 
a Chamar man and woman are detected in the same 
offence, the heads of both are shaved clean of hair. A 
Dhlmar girl who goes wrong before marriage has a lock 
of her hair cut off as a penalty, the same being done in 
several other castes. 
13. Shav- The exact significance which is to be attached to the 

head by I'cmoval by mourners of their hair after a death is perhaps 
mourners, doubtful. Sir James Frazer shows that the Australian 
aborigines are accustomed to let their own blood flow on to 
the corpse of a dead kinsman and to place their cut hair on 
the corpse. He suggests that in both cases the object is to 
strengthen the feeble spirit within the corpse and sustain its 
life, in order that it may be born again. As a development 

' Mr. V. A. Smith, Early History of India, 2nd ed. p. 128. 


of such a rile the hair might have become an offering to 
the dead, and later still its removal might become a sacrifice 
and indication of grief. In this manner the common custom 
of tearing the hair in token of grief and mourning for the 
dead would be accounted for. • Whether the Hindu custom 
of shaving the heads of mourners was also originally a 
sacrifice and offering appears to be uncertain. Professor 
Robertson Smith considered ^ that in this case the hair is 
shaved off as a means of removing impurity, and quotes 
instances from the Bible where lepers and persons defiled 
by contact with the dead are purified by shaving the hair.^ 
As the father of a child is also shaved after its birth, and 
the shaving must here apparently be a rite of purification, it 
probably has the same significance in the case of mourners ; 
it is not clear whether any element of sacrifice is also 
involved. The degree to which the Hindu mourner parts 
with his hair varies to some extent with the nearness of the 
relationship, and for females or distant relatives they do not 
always shave. The mourners are shaved on the last day of 
the impurity, when presents are given to the Maha-Brahman, 
and the latter, representing the dead man, is also shaved 
with them. When a Hindu is at the point of death, before 
he makes the gifts for the good of his soul the head is 
shaved with the exception of his cJioti or scalp-lock, the 
chin and upper lip. Often the corpse is also shaved after 

Another case of the hair offering is that made in fulfil- 14. Hair 
ment of a vow or at a temple. In this case the hair appears °ff'2'''"gs. 
to be a gift-offering which is made to the god as representing 
the life and strength of the donor ; owing to the importance 
attached to the hair as the source of life and strength, it 
was a verj^ precious sacrifice. Sir James Frazer also 
suggests that the hair so given would impart life and 
strength to the god, of which he stood in need, just as he 
needed food to nourish him. Among the Hindus it is a 
common practice to take a child to some well-known temple 
to have its hair cut for the first time, and to offer the 
clippings of hair to the deity. If they cannot go to the 
temple to have the hair cut they have it cut at home, 

1 Religion 0/ the Sernites, p. 33. - Lev. xiv. 9 and Deut. xxi. 12. 


and either preserve the whole hair or a lock of it, until an 
opportunity occurs to offer it at the temple. In some 
castes a Brahman is invited at the first cutting of a child's 
hair, and he repeats texts and blesses the child ; the first 
lock of hair is then cut by the child's maternal uncle, and 
its head is shaved by the barber. A child's hair is cut in 
the first, third or fifth year after birth, but not in the 
second or fourth year. Among the Muhammadans when a 
child's hair is cut for the first time, or at least on one 
occasion in its life, the hair should be weighed against silver 
or gold and the amount distributed in charity. In these 
cases also it would appear that the hair as a valuable 
part of the child is offered to the god to obtain his 
protection for the life of the child. If a woman has no 
child and desires one, or if she has had children and 
lost them, she will vow her next child's hair to some god 
or temple. A small patch known as chench is then left 
unshorn on the child's head until it can be taken to the 
15. Keep- It was also the custom to keep the hair unshorn during 

unshorn "^^^ performance of a vow. " While his vow lasted a 
during Nazarite might not have his hair cut : ' All the days 
of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come 
upon his head.'^ The Egyptians on a journey kept their 
hair" uncut till they returned home." Among the Chatti 
tribe of the ancient Germans the young warriors never 
clipped their hair or their beard till they had slain an 
enemy. Six thousand Saxons once swore that they would 
not clip their hair nor shave their beards until they had 
taken vengeance on their enemies." ^ Similarly, Hindu 
religious mendicants keep their hair long while they are 
journeying on a pilgrimage, and when they arrive at the 
temple which is their goal they shave it all off and offer it 
to the god. In this case, as the hair is vowed as an offering, 
it clearly cannot be cut during the performance of the vow, 
but must be preserved intact. When the task to be 
accomplished for the fulfilment of a vow is a journey or the 
slaying of enemies, the retention of the hair is probably also 

1 Golden Bough, 2nd ed. vol. i. p. ^ Ibidem, 2nd ed. vol. i. p. 370. 

37^- •' Ibidem, 2nd ed. vol. i. p. 371. 

a vow. 


meant to support and increase the wearer's strength for the 
accomj)h'shment of his purpose. 

If the hair contained a part of the wearer's Hfe and 16. Dis- 
strength its disposal would be a matter of great importance, cmtia^r 
because, according to primitive belief, these qualities would and nails. 
remain in it after it had been severed. Hence, if an enemy- 
obtained it, by destroying the hair or some analogous 
action he might injure or destroy the life and strength of 
the person to whom it belonged. The Hindus usually 
wrap up a child's first hair in a ball of dough and throw 
it into a running stream, with the cuttings of his nails. 
Well-to-do people also place a rupee in the ball, so that it 
is now regarded as an offering. The same course is some- 
times followed with the hair and nails cut ceremoniously at 
a wedding, and possibly on one or two other occasions, such 
as the investiture with the sacred thread ; but the belief is 
decaying, and ordinarily no care is taken of the shorn hair. 
In Berar when the Hindus cut a child's hair for the first 
time they sometimes bury it under a water-pot where the 
ground is damp, perhaps with the idea that the child's 
hair will grow thickly and plentifully like grass in a 
damp place. It is a common belief that if a barren 
woman gets hold of a child's first hair and wears it round 
her waist the fertility of the child's mother will be trans- 
ferred to her. The Sarwaria Brahmans shave a child's 
hair in its third year. A small silver razor is made 
specially for the occasion, costing a rupee and a quarter, 
and the barber first touches the child's hair with this and 
then shaves it ceremoniously with his own razor.^ The 
Halbas think that the severed clippings of hair are of no use 
for magic, but if a witch can cut a lock of hair from a man's 
head she can use it to work magic on him. In making an 
image of a person with intent to injure or destroy him, it 
was customary to put a little of his hair into the image, by* 
which means his life and strength were conveyed to it. A 
few years ago a London newspaper mentioned the case of 
an Essex man entering a hairdresser's and requesting the 
barber to procure for him a piece of a certain customer's 
hair. When asked the reason for this curious demand, he 

1 Mr. Crooke's Tribes and Castes, art. Sarwaria. 


stated that the customer had injured him and he wished tc 
' work a spell ' against him.^ In the Parsi Zend-Avesta 
it is stated that if the clippings of hair or nails are allowed 
to fall in the ground or ditches, evil spirits spring up frcm 
them and devour grain and clothing in the house. It was 
therefore ordained for the Parsis through their prophet 
Zarathustra that the cuttings of hair or nails should be buried 
in a deep hole ten paces from a dwelling, twenty paces 
from fire, and fifty paces from the sacred bundles called 
baresmdn. Texts should be said over them and the hole 
filled in. Many Parsis still bury their cut hair and nails 
four inches under ground, and an extracted tooth is disposed 
of in the same manner.^ Some Hindus think that the nail- 
parings should always be thrown into a frequented place, 
where they will be destroyed by the traffic. If they are 
thrown on to damp earth they will grow into a plant which 
will ruin the person from whose body they came. It is 
said that about twenty years ago a man in Nagpur was 
ruined by the growth of a piece of finger-nail, which 
had accidentally dropped into a flower-pot in his house. 
Apparently in this case the nail is supposed to contain 
a portion of the life and strength of the person to whom it 
belonged, and if the nail grows it gradually absorbs more 
and more of his life and strength, and he consequently 
becomes weaker and weaker through being deprived of it. 
The Hindu superstition against shaving the head appears to 
find a parallel regarding the nails in the old English saying : 

Cut no horn 

On the Sabbath morn. 

Among some Hindus it is said that the toe-nails should not 

be cut at all until a child is married, when they are cut 

ceremoniously by the barber. 

17. Super-- Since the removal of the hair is held to involve a certain 

aborn^ ^'^^^ °^ strength and power, it should only be effected at 

shaving certain seasons and not on auspicious days. A man who 

has male children should not have his head shaved on 

Monday, as this may cause his children to die. On the 

• Occult Review, October 1909. Gazetteer, Parsis of Gujarat, p. 

'^ Orphitis, p. 99, and Bombay 220. 


other hand, a man who has no cliiUlrcn will fast on Sunday 

in the hope of gettini^ them, and therefore he will neither 

shave his head nor visit his wife on that day. A Hindu 

must not be shaved on Thursday, because this is the day of 

the planet Jupiter, which is also known as Guru, and his act 

would be disrespectful to his own guric or preceptor. 

Tuesday is Devi's day, and a man will not get shaved on that 

day ; nor on Saturday, because it is Hanuman's day.^ On 

Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays he may be shaved, but 

not if the day happens to be the new moon, full moon, or 

the Ashtami or Ekadashi, that is the eighth or eleventh 

day of the fortnight. He should not shave on the day that 

he is going on a journey. If all these rules were strictly 

observed there would be very few days on which one could 

get shaved but many of them are necessarily more honoured 

in the breach. Wednesdays and Fridays are the best days 

for shaving, and by shaving on these days a man will see old 

age. Debtors are shaved on Wednesdays, as they think that 

this will help them to pay off their debts. Some Brahmans 

are not shaved during the month of Shrawan (July), when 

the crops are growing, nor during the nine days of the 

months of Kunwar (September) and Chait (March), when a 

fast is observed and the jazvaras " are sown. After they 

have been shaved high-caste Hindus consider themselves 

impure till they have bathed. They touch no person or 

thing in the house, and sometimes have the water thrown 

on them by a servant so as to avoid contact with the 

vessels. They will also neither eat, drink nor smoke until 

they have bathed. Sometimes they throw so much water 

over the head in order to purify themselves as to catch a bad 

cold. In this case, apparently, the impurity accrues from the 

loss of the hair, and the man feels that virtue has gone out 

of him. Women never shave their hair with a razor, as 

they think that to do so would make the body so heavy 

after death that it could not be carried to the place of 

cremation. They carefully pluck out the hair under the 

armpits and the pubic hair with a pair of pincers. A 

^ Hanuman is worshipped on this ^ pots in which wheat -stalks are 

day in order to counteract the evil sown and tended for nine days, corre- 

influence of the planet Saturn, whose sponding to the Gardens of Adonis, 
day it really is. 

282 NAT PAK'i- 

girl's hair may be cut with scissors, but not after she is 
ten years old or is married. Sometimes a girl's hair is not 
cut at all, but her father will take a pearl and entwine it 
into her hair, where it is left until she is married. It is con- 
sidered very auspicious to give away a girl in marriage 
with hair which has never been cut, and a pearl in it. After 
marriage she will take out the pearl and wear it in an 
18. The above evidence appears to indicate that the belief 

Reasons ^f ^ man's strength and vigour being contained in his hair 

wh)' the == ^ , . 

hair was is by uo means confined to the legend of Samson, but is 
considered gpj-g^d all over the world. This has been pointed out by 

the source ^ ^ •' 

of strength. Profcssof Robcrtsou Smith, Professor Wilken and others. 
Sir J. G. Frazer also adduces several instances in the 
Golden Bough to show that the life or soul was believed to 
be contained in the hair. This may well have been the 
case, but the hair was also specialised, so to speak, as the 
seat of bodily vigour and strength. The same idea appears 
to have applied in a minor measure to the nails and teeth. 
The rules for disposing of the cut hair usually apply to 
the parings of nails, and the first teeth are also deposited 
in a rat's hole or on the roof of the house. As suggested 
by Professor Robertson Smith it seems likely that the 
strength and vigour of the body was believed to be located 
in th^ hair, and also to a less extent in the nails and teeth, 
because they grew more visibly and quickly than the body 
and continued to do so after it had attained to maturity. 
The hair and nails continue to grow all through life, and 
though the teeth do not grow when fully formed, the second 
teeth appear when the body is considerably developed and 
the wisdom teeth after it is fully developed. The hair 
grows much more palpably and vigorously than the nails 
and teeth, and hence might be considered especially the 
source of strength. Other considerations which might 
confirm the idea are that men have more hair on their 
bodies than women, and strongly built men often have a 
large quantity of hair. Some of the stronger wild animals 
have long hair, as the lion, bear and wild boar ; and the 
horse, often considered the embodiment of strength, has a 

1 Religion of the Semites, p. 324. 


long mane. And when anger is excited the hair sometimes 
appears to rise, as it were, from the skin. The nails and 
teeth were formerly used on occasion as weapons of offence, 
and hence might be considered to contain part of the 
strength and vigour of the body. 

Finally, it may be suggested as a possibility that the 
Roundheads cut their hair short as a protest against the 
superstition that a soldier's hair must be long, which 
originated in the idea that strength is located in the hair 
and may have still been current in their time. We know 
that the Puritans strove vainly against the veneration of 
the Maypole as the spirit of the new vegetation,' and 
against the old nature -rites observed at Christmas, the 
veneration of fire as the preserver of life against cold, and 
the veneration of the evergreen plants, the fir tree, the 
holly, and the mistletoe, which retained their foliage through 
the long night of the northern winter, and were thus a 
pledge to man of the return of warmth and the renewal of 
vegetation in the spring. And it therefore seems not 
altogether improbable that the Puritans may have similarly 
contended against the superstition as to the wearing of 
long hair. 

Naoda.- — A small caste found in the Nimar District 
and in Central India. The name means a rower and is 
derived from nao^ a boat. The caste are closely connected 
with the Mallahs or Kewats, but have a slightly distinctive 
position, as they are employed to row pilgrims over the 
Nerbudda at the great fair held at Siva's temple on the 
island of Mandhata. They say that their ancestors were 
Rajputs, and some of their family names, as Solanki, Rawat 
and Mori, are derived from those of Rajput septs. But 
these have probably been adopted in imitation of their 
Kshatriya ^overlords. The caste is an occupational one. 
They have a tradition that in former times a Naoda boatman 
recovered the corpse of a king's daughter, who had drowned 

1 Golden Bough, 2nd ed. vol. i. p. India in 1S91, but in 1901 they were 

203. amalgamated with the Mallalis or 

- In 191 1 the Naodas numbered Kewats. Tiiis article is based on a 

700 persons in the Central Provinces. paper by Mr. P. K. Kaipitia, Forest 

About 1000 were returned in Central Ransrer. 


herself in the river wearing costly jewels, and the king as 
a reward granted them the right of ferrying pilgrims at 
Mandhata, which they still continue to enjoy, keeping their 
earnings for themselves. They have a division of impure 
blood called the Gate or bastard Naodas, who marry among 
themselves, and any girl who reaches the age of puberty 
without being married is relegated to this. In the case 
of a caste whose numbers are so small, irregular connections 
with outsiders must probably be not infrequent. Another 
report states that adult unmarried girls are not expelled but 
are married to a pipal tree. But girls are sought after, and 
it is customary to pay a bride-price, the average amount 
of which is Rs. 25. Before the bridegroom starts for his 
wedding his mother takes and passes in front of him, 
successively from his head to his feet, a pestle, some stalks 
of riisa grass, a churning rod and a winnowing-fan. This 
is done with the object of keeping off evil spirits, and it is 
said that by her action she threatens to pound the spirits 
with the pestle, to tie them up with the grass, to churn and 
mash them with the churning-rod, and to scatter them to 
the winds with the winnowing-fan. When a man wishes 
to divorce his wife he simply turns her out of the house in 
the presence of four or five respectable men of the caste. 
The marriage of a widow is celebrated on a Sunday or 
Tuesday, the clothes of the couple being tied together by 
another widow at night. The following day they spend 
together in a garden, and in the evening are escorted home 
by their relatives with torches and music. Next morning 
the woman goes to the well and draws water, and her 
husband, accompanying her, helps her to lift the water-pots 
on to her shoulder. 

The caste worship the ordinary Hindu deities and 
especially Bhairon, the guardian of the gate of Mahadeo's 
temple. They have a nail driven into the bow of their 
boat which is called ' Bhairon's nail,' and at the Dasahra 
festival they offer to this a white pumpkin with cocoanuts, 
vermilion, incense and liquor. The caste hold in special 
reverence the cow, the dog and the tamarind tree. The 
dog is sacred as being the animal on which Bhairava rides, 
and their most solemn oaths are sworn by a dog or a cow. 

n NAODA 285 

They will on no account cut or burn the tamarind tree, 
and the women veil their faces before it. They cannot 
explain this sentiment, which is probably due to some 
forgotten belief of the nature of totemism. To kill a cow 
or a cat intentionally involves permanent exclusion from 
the caste, while the slaughter of a squirrel, dog, horse, 
buffalo or monkey is punished by temporary exclusion, it 
being equally sinful to allow any of these animals to die 
with a rope round its neck. The Naodas eat the flesh of 
pigs and fowls, but they occupy a fairly good social position 
and Brahmans will take water from their hands. 



1. The Nats 7iot a proper caste. 4. Acrobatic performances. 

2. Muhammada?! Nats. 5. Sliding or walking on ropes as 

3. Social customs of the Nats. a charm for the crops. 

Their low status. 6. Siiake-charmers. 

I. The Nat,^ Badi, Dangf-Charha, Karnati, Bazig-ar, Sapepa. — 

Nats not -p^^^ \_Qxm Nat (Sanskrit Nata — a dancer) appears to be 

a proper ^ / 1 x 

caste. applied indefinitely to a number of groups of vagrant 
acrobats and showmen, especially those who make it their 
business to do feats on the tight-rope or with poles, and 
those who train and exhibit snakes. Badi and Bazigar 
mean a rope-walker, Dang-Charha a rope-climber, and 
Sapera a snake-charmer. In the Central Provinces the 
Garudis or snake-charmers, and the Kolhatis, a class of 
gipsy acrobats akin to the Berias, are also known as Nat, 
and these are treated in separate articles. It is almost 
certain that a considerable section, if not the majority, of 
the Nats really belong to the Kanjar or Beria gipsy castes, 
who themselves may be sprung from the Doms.^ Sir D. 
Ibbetson says : " They wander about with their families, 
settling for a few days or weeks at a time in the vicinity 
of large villages or towns, and constructing temporary 
shelters of grass. In addition to practising acrobatic feats 
and conjuring of a low class, they make articles of grass, 
straw and reeds for sale ; and in the centre of the Punjab 
are said to act as Mirasis, though this is perhaps doubtful. 
They often practise surgery and physic in a small way and 

• This article is partly compiled from notes furnished by Mr. Aduram 
Chaudhri and Mr. Jagannath Prasad, Naib-TahsUdars. 2 g^g j^jj_ Kanjar. 



are not free from suspicion of sorcery." ^ This account 
would just as well apply to the Kanjar gipsies, and the 
Nat women sometimes do tattooing like Kanjar or Beria 
women. In Jubbulpore also the caste is known as Nat 
Beria, indicating that the Nats there are probably derived 
from the Beria caste. Similarly Sir H. Risley gives Bazigar 
and Kabutari as groups of the Berias of Bengal, and states 
that these are closely akin to the Nats and Kanjars of 
Hindustan.- An old account of the Nats or Bazigars ^ 
would equally well apply to the Kanjars ; and in Mr. 
Crooke's detailed article on the Nats several connecting 
links are noticed. The Nat women are sometimes known 
as Kabutari or pigeon, either because their acrobatic feats 
are like the flight of the tumbler pigeon, or on account 
of the flirting manner with which they attract their male 
customers.'* In the Central Provinces the women of the 
small Gopal caste of acrobats arc called Kabutari, and 
this further supports the hypothesis that Nat is rather 
an occupational term than the name of a distinct caste, 
though it is quite likely that there may be Nats who 
have no other caste. The Badi or rope-dancer group again 
is an offshoot of the Gond tribe, at least in the tracts 
adjoining the Central Provinces. They have Gond septs 
as Marai, Netam, Wlka,^ and they have the damrii or drum 
used by the Gaurias or snake-charmers and jugglers of 
ChhattTsgarh, who are also derived from the Gonds. The 
Chhattisgarhi Dang-Charhas are Gonds who say they 
formerly belonged to Panna State and were supported by 
Raja Aman Singh of Panna, a great patron of their art. 
They sing a song lamenting his death in the flower of his 
youth. The Karnatis or Karnataks are a class of Nats who 
are supposed to have come from the Carnatic. Mr. Crooke 
notes that they will eat the leavings of all high castes, and 
are hence known as Khushhaliya or ' Those in prosperous 
circumstances.' *" 

One division of the Nats are Muhammadans and seem to 2. Muham- 


1 Punjab Census Report (1881), ^ Asiatic Researches, \o\. \\\., \'iQ2), Nats, 
para. 588. by Captain Richardson. 

* Tribes and Castes, art. Nat. 

2 Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. ^ Crooke, I.e., art. Nat. 
Beria. ^ Ibidem. 


3. Social 

customs of ^ Qf ^j^g population. 

the Nats. o jr jr 

Their low 


4. Acro- 
Ijatic per- 

be to some extent a distinctive group. They have seven 
gotras — Chicharia, Damaria, Dhalbalki, Purbia, Dhondabalki, 
Karimki and Kalasia. They worship two Birs or spirits, 
Halaila Bir and Sheikh Saddu, to whom they sacrifice fowls 
in the months of Bhadon (August) and Baisakh (April). 
Hindus of any caste are freely admitted into their com- 
munity, and they can marry Hindu girls. 

Generally the customs of the Nats show them to be the 
There is no offence which entails 
permanent expulsion from caste. They will eat any kind 
of food including snakes, crocodiles and rats, and also take 
food from the hands of any caste, even it is said from 
sweepers. It is not reported that they prostitute their 
women, but there is little doubt that this is the case ; in the 
Punjab ^ when a Nat woman marries, the first child is 
either given to the grandmother as compensation for the loss 
of the mother's gains as a prostitute, or is redeemed by a 
payment of Rs. 30. Among the Chhattlsgarhi Dang-Charhas 
a bride-price of Rs. 40 is paid, of which the girl's father 
only keeps ten, and the remaining sum of Rs. 30 is expended 
on a feast to the caste. Some of the Nats have taken to 
cultivation and become much more respectable, eschewing the 
flesh of unclean animals. Another group of the caste keep 
trained dogs and hunt the wild pig with spears like the 
Kolhatis of Berar. The villagers readily pay for their 
services in order to get the pig destroyed, and they sell the 
flesh to the Gonds and lower castes of Hindus. Others 
hunt jackals with dogs in the same manner. They eat the 
flesh of the jackals and dispose of any surplus to the 
Gonds, who also eat it. The Nats worship Devi and also 
Hanuman, the monkey god, on account of the acrobatic 
powers of monkeys. But in Bombay they say that their 
favourite and only living gods are their bread-winners and 
averters of hunger, the drum, the rope and the balancing- 

The tight-rope is stretched between two pairs of bamboos, 
each pair being fixed obliquely in the ground and crossing 
each other at the top so as to form a socket over which the 

' Ihbet.son, Punjab Census Report 
(1886), para. 588. 

2 Bombay Gazetteer, vol. xx. p. 186, 
quoted in Mr. Crooke's article. 


rope passes. The ends of the rope are taken over the 
crossed bamboos and firmly secured to the t^round by heavy 
pegs. The performer takes another balancing-pole in his 
hands and walks along the rope between the poles which are 
about 1 2 feet high. Another man beats a drum, and a 
third stands under the rope singing the performer's praises 
and giving him encouragement. After this the performer 
ties two sets of cow or buffalo horns to his feet, which are 
secured to the back of the skulls so that the flat front between 
the horns rests on the rope, and with these he walks over 
the rope, holding the balancing-rod in his hands and descends 
again. Finally he takes a brass plate and a cloth and 
again ascends the rope. He places the plate on the rope 
and folds the cloth over it to make a pad. He then stands 
on his head on the pad with his feet in the air and holds the 
balancing-rod in his hands ; two strings are tied to the end 
of this rod and the other ends of the strings are held by the 
man underneath. With the assistance of the balancing-rod 
the performer then jerks the plate along the rope with his 
head, his feet being in the air, until he arrives at the end and 
finally descends again. This usually concludes the perform- 
ance, which demands a high degree of skill. Women 
occasionally, though rarely, do the same feats. Another 
class of Nats walk on high stilts and the women show their 
confidence by dancing and singing under them. A saying 
about the Nats is : Nat ka bachcha to kaldbazi hi karega ; 
or ' The rope-dancer's son is always turning somersaults.' ^ 

The feats of the Nats as tight-rope walkers used ap- 5. Sliding 

parently to make a considerable impression on the minds ^^^ ^^ 
of the people, as it is not uncommon to find a deified Nat, as a char 
called Nat Baba or Father Nat, as a village god. A Natni crops.*^ 
or Nat woman is also sometimes worshipped, and where two 
sharp peaks of hills are situated close to each other, it is 
related that in former times there was a Natni, very skilful 
on the tight-rope, who performed before the king ; and he 
promised her that if she would stretch a rope from the peak 
of one hill to that of the other and walk across it he would 
marry her and make her wealthy. Accordingly the rope 
was stretched, but the queen from jealousy went and cut it 

* Temple and Fallon's Hindustani Proverbs, p. 171. 



half through in the night, and when the Natni started to 
walk the rope broke and she fell down and was killed. 
She was therefore deified and worshipped. It is probable 
that this legend recalls some rite in which the Nat was 
employed to walk on a tight-rope for the benefit of the 
crops, and, if he failed, was killed as a sacrifice ; for the 
following passage taken from Traill's account of Kumaon ^ 
seems clearly to refer to some such rite : 

" Drought, want of fertility in the soil, murrain in cattle, 
and other calamities incident to husbandry are here in- 
variably ascribed to the wrath of particular gods, to appease 
which recourse is had to various ceremonies. In the Kumaon 
District offerings and singing and dancing are resorted to 
on such occasions. In Garhwal the measures pursued with 
the same view are of a peculiar nature, deserving of more 
particular notice. In villages dedicated to the protection of 
Mahadeva propitiatory festivals are held in his honour. At 
these Badis or rope-dancers are engaged to perform on the 
tight-rope, and slide down an inclined rope stretched from the 
summit of a cliff to the valley beneath and made fast to posts 
driven into the ground. The Badi sits astride on a wooden 
saddle, to which he is tied by thongs ; the saddle is similarly 
secured to the bast or sliding cable, along which it runs, 
by means of a deep groove ; sandbags are tied to the Badi's 
feet -sufficient to secure his balance, and he is then, after 
various ceremonies and the sacrifice of a kid, started off; the 
velocity of his descent is very great, and the saddle, however 
well greased, emits a volume of smoke throughout the greater 
part of his progress. The length and inclination of the 
bast necessarily vary with the nature of the cliff, but as the 
Badi is remunerated at the rate of a rupee for every hundred 
cubits, hence termed a tola, a correct measurement always 
takes place ; the longest bast which has fallen within my 
observation has been twenty-one tolas, or 2 1 00 cubits in 
length. From the precautions taken as above mentioned 
the only danger to be apprehended by the Badi is from 
breaking of the rope, to provide against which the latter, 
commonly from one and a half to two inches in diameter, is 
made wholly by his own hand ; the material used is the 

1 As. Res. vol. xvi., 1S2S, p. 213. 


bhdbar grass. Formerly, if a Badi fell to the ground in his 
course, he was immediately despatched with a sword by the 
surrounding spectators, but this practice is now, of course, 
prohibited. No fatal accident has occurred from the perform- 
ance of this ceremony since 181 5, though it is probably 
celebrated at not less than fifty villages in each year. After 
the completion of the sliding, the bast or rope is cut up and 
distributed among the inhabitants of the village, who hang 
the pieces as charms on the eaves of their houses. The hair 
of the Badi is also taken and preserved as possessing similar 
virtues. He being thus made the organ to obtain fertility 
for the lands of others, the Badi is supposed to entail 
sterility on his own ; and it is firmly believed that no grain 
sown with his hand can ever vegetate. Each District has 
its hereditary Badi, who is supported by annual contributions 
of grain from the inhabitants," It is not improbable that 
the performance of the Nat is a reminiscence of a period 
when human victims were sacrificed for the crops, this being 
a common practice among primitive peoples, as shown by 
Sir J. G. Frazer in Atlis, Adonis, Osiris. Similarly the 
spirits of Nats which are revered in the Central Provinces 
may really be those of victims killed during the performance 
of some charm for the good of the crops, akin to that still 
prevalent in the Himalayas, The custom of making the 
Nat slide down a rope is of the same character as that of 
swinging a man in the air by a hook secured in his flesh, 
which was formerly common in these Provinces, But in 
both cases the meaning of the rite is obscure. 

The groups who practise snake-charming are known as 6. Snake- 
Sapera or Garudi and in the Maratha Districts as Madari, •^'^^""^•'S' 
Another name for them is Nag-Nathi, or one who seizes a 
cobra. They keep cobras, pythons, scorpions, and the 
iguana or large lizard, which they consider to be poisonous. 
Some of them when engaged with their snakes wear two 
pieces of tiger-skin on their back and chest, and a cap of 
tiger-skin in which they fix the eyes of various birds. They 
have a hollow gourd on which they produce a kind of music 
and this is supposed to charm the snakes. When catching 
a cobra they pin its head to the ground with a stick and 
then seize it in a cleft bamboo and prick out the poison- 

292 NA T PART 

fangs with a large needle. They thhik that the teeth of 
the iguana are also poisonous and they knock them out 
with a stick, and if fresh teeth afterwards grow they believe 
them not to contain poison. The python is called Ajgar, 
which is said to mean eater of goats. In captivity the 
pythons will not eat of themselves, and the snake-charmers 
chop up pieces of meat and fowls and placing the food in 
the reptile's mouth massage it down the body. They feed 
the pythons only once in four or five days. They have 
antidotes for snake-bite, the root of a creeper called kalipdr 
and the bark of the karheya tree. When a patient is 
brought to them they give him a little pepper, and if he 
tastes the pungent flavour they think that he has not been 
affected by snake-poison, but if it seems tasteless that he 
has been bitten. Then they give him small pieces of the 
two antidotes already mentioned with tobacco and 2-|- leaves 
of the 711111 tree ^ which is sacred to Devi. On the festival 
of Nag-Panchmi (Cobra's Fifth) they worship their cobras 
and give them milk to drink and then take them round the 
town or village and the people also worship and feed the 
snakes and give a present of a few annas to the Sapera. 
In towns much frequented by cobras, a special adoration is 
paid to them. Thus in Hatta in the Damoh District a 
stone image of a snake, known as Nag-Baba or Father 
Cobra is worshipped for a month betore the festival of Nag- 
Panchmi. During this period one man from every house 
in the village must go to Nag-Baba's shrine outside and 
take food there and come back. And on Nag-Panchmi the 
whole town goes out in a body to pay him reverence, and it 
is thought that if any one is absent the cobras will harass 
him for the whole year. But others say that cobras will 
only bite men of low caste. The Saperas will not kill a 
snake as a rule, but occasionally it is said that they kill one 
and cut off the head and eat the body, this being possibly 
an instance of eating the divine animal at a sacrificial meal. 
The following is an old account of the performances of 
snake-charmers in Bengal : '" 

" Hence, on many occasions throughout the year, the 

1 Melia iiidica. by the Rev. Bihari Lai De, Calcutta 

2 Bengali Festivals and Holidays, Review, vol. v, pp. 59, 60. 

iiiJinosc. Coiio., Dtti'y. 




dread Manasa Devi, the queen of snakes, is propitiated by 
presents, vows and religious rites. In the month of Shrabana 
the worship of the snake goddess is celebrated with great 
eclat. An image of the goddess, seated on a water-lily, 
encircled with serpents, or a branch of the snake -tree (a 
species of Euphorbia), or a pot of water, with images of 
serpents made of clay, forms the object of worship. Men, 
women and children, all offer presents to avert from them- 
selves the wrath of the terrific deity. The Mais or snake- 
catchers signalise themselves on this occasion. Temporary 
scaffolds of bamboo work are set up in the presence of the 
goddess. Vessels filled with all sorts of snakes are brought 
in. The Mais, often reeling with intoxication, mount the 
scaffolds, take out serpents from the vessels, and allow them 
to bite their arms. Bite after bite succeeds ; the arms run 
with blood ; and the Mais go on with their pranks, amid 
the deafening plaudits of the spectators. Now and then they 
fall off from the scaffold and pretend to feel the effects of 
poison, and cure themselves by their incantations. But all is 
mere pretence. The serpents displayed on the occasion and 
challenged to do their worst, have passed through a pre- 
paratory state. Their fangs have been carefully extracted 
from their jaws. But most of the vulgar spectators easily 
persuade themselves to believe that the Mais are the chosen 
servants of Siva and the favourites of Manasa. Although 
their supernatural pretensions are ridiculous, yet it must be 
confessed that the Mais have made snakes the subject of 
their peculiar study. They are thoroughly acquainted with 
their qualities, their dispositions, and their habits. They 
will run down a snake into its hole, and bring it out thence 
by main force. Even the terrible cobra is cowed down by 
the controlling influence of a Mai. When in the act of bring- 
ing out snakes from their subterranean holes, the Mais are 
in the habit of muttering charms, in which the names of 
Manasa and Mahadeva frequently occur ; superstition alone 
can clothe these unmeaning words with supernatural potency. 
But it is not inconsistent with the soundest philosophy to 
suppose that there may be some plants whose roots are 
disagreeable to serpents, and from which they instinctively 
turn away. All snake-catchers of Bengal are provided with 


a bundle of the roots of some plant which they carefully 
carry along with them, when they set out on their serpent- 
hunting expeditions. When a serpent, disturbed in its hole, 
comes out furiously hissing with rage, with its body coiled, 
and its head lifted up, the Mai has only to present before it 
the bundle of roots above alluded to, at the sight of which 
it becomes spiritless as an eel. This we have ourselves 
witnessed more than once." 

These Mais appear to have been members of the 
aboriginal Male or Male Paharia tribe of Bengal. 

Nunia, Lunia.^ — A mixed occupational caste of salt- 
makers and earth -workers, made up of recruits from the 
different non- Aryan tribes of northern India. The word 
non means salt, and is a corruption of the Sanskrit lavana, 
' the moist,' which first occurs as a name for sea-salt in the 
Atharva Veda.^ In the oldest prose writings salt is known 
as Saindhava or ' that which is brought from the Indus,' 
this perhaps being Punjab rock-salt. The Nunias are a 
fairly large caste in Bengal and northern India, numbering 
800,000 persons, but the Central Provinces and Berar contain 
only 3000, who are immigrants from Upper India. Here 
they are navvies and masons, a calling which they have 
generally adopted since the Government monopoly has inter- 
fered with their proper business of salt-refining. The mixed 
origin of the caste is shown by the list of their subdivisions 
in the United Provinces, which includes the names Mallah, 
Kewat, Kuchbandhia, Bind, Musahar, Bhuinhar and Lodha, 
all of which are distinct castes, besides a number of terri- 
torial subcastes. A list of nearly thirty subcastes is given 
by Mr. Crooke, and this is an instance of the tendency of 
migratory castes to split up into small groups for the 
purpose of arranging marriages, owing to the difficulty of 
ascertaining the status and respectability of each other's 
families, and the unwillingness to contract alliances with 
those whose social position may turn out to be not wholly 
satisfactory. " The internal structure of the caste," Mr. 
Crooke remarks, " is far from clear ; it would appear that 

' Based on papers by Munshi Kan- - Mr. Crooke's lyibcs and Castes, 

hya Lai of the (lazelleer Office, and art. Lunia. 
Mr. Mir I'atcha, Tahslldar, I'.ilaspur. 

II NUN/ A 295 

they arc still in a state of transition, and the different 
endogamous subcastes are not as yet fully recognised." In 
Bilaspur the Nunias have three local subcastes, the Band- 
haiya, the Ratanpuria and the Kharodhia. The two last, 
deriving their names from the towns of Ratanpur and 
Kharod in Bilaspur, are said to have been employed in 
former times in the construction of the temples and other 
buildings which abound in these localities, and have thus 
acquired a considerable degree of professional skill in 
masonry work ; while the Bandhaiya, who take their name 
from Bandhogarh, confine themselves to the excavation of 
tanks and wells. The exogamous divisions of the caste are 
also by no means clearly defined ; in Mlrzapur they have 
a system of local subdivisions called dih, each subdivision 
being named after the village which is supposed to be its 
home. The word dlh itself means a site or village. Those 
who have a common dih do not intermarry.^ This fact is 
interesting as being an instance of the direct derivation of 
the exogamous clan from residence in a parent village and 
not from any heroic or supposititious ancestor. 

The caste have a legend which shows their mixed origin. 
Some centuries ago, they say, a marriage procession con- 
sisting of Brahmans, Rajputs, Banias and Gosains went to 
a place near Ajodhya. After the ceremony was over the 
bride, on being taken to the bridegroom's lodging, scraped 
up a little earth with her fingers and put it in her mouth. 
She found it had a saltish taste, and spat it out on the ground, 
and this enraged the tutelary goddess of the village, who 
considered herself insulted, and swore that all the bride's 
descendants should excavate salt in atonement ; and thus 
the caste arose. 

In Bilaspur the caste permit a girl to be married to a 
boy younger than herself. A price of five rupees has to be 
paid for the bride, unless her family give a girl in exchange. 
The bridegroom is taken to the wedding in a palanquin 
borne by Mahfirs. After its conclusion the couple are 
carried back in the litter for some distance, after which the 
bridegroom gets out and walks or rides. When he goes to 
fetch his wife on her coming of age the bridegroom wears 

1 Mr. Crooke's Tribes and Castes, art. Lunia. 


white clothes, which is rather peculiar, as white is not a 
lucky colour among the Hindus. The Nunias employ 
Brahmans at their ceremonies, and they have a caste 
panchdyat or committee, whose headman is known as 
Kurha. The Bilaspur section of the caste has two Kurhas. 
Here Brahmans take water from them, but not in all places. 
They consider their traditional occupation to have been 
the extraction of salt and saltpetre from saline earth. At 
present they are generally employed in the excavation of 
tanks and the embankment of fields, and they also sink 
wells, build and erect houses, and undertake all kinds of 
agricultural labour. 

Ojha. — The community of soothsayers and minstrels of 
the Gonds. The Ojhas may now be considered a distinct 
subtribe, as they are looked down upon by the Gonds and 
marry among themselves. They derive their name from the 
word ojh, meaning ' entrail,' their original duty having been, 
like that of the Roman augurs, to examine the entrails of the 
victim immediately after it had been slain as an offering to 
the gods. In 191 1 the Ojhas numbered about 5000 persons 
distributed over all Districts of the Central Provinces. At 
present the bulk of the community subsist by beggary. 
The word Ojha is of Sanskrit and not of Gond origin and is 
applied by the Hindus to the seers or magicians of several 
of the primitive tribes, while there is also a class of Ojha 
Brahmans who practise magic and divination. The Gond 
Ojhas, who are the subject of this article, originally served 
the Gonds and begged from them alone, but in some parts 
of the western Satpuras they are also the minstrels of the 
Korkus. Those who beg from the Korkus play on a kind 
of drum called dhiiJtk, while the Gond Ojhas use the kingri 
or lyre. Some of them also catch birds and are therefore 
known as Moghia. Mr. Hislop ^ remarks of them: "The 
Ojhas follow the two occupations of bard and fowler. They 
lead a wandering life and when passing through villages they 
sing from house to house the praises of their heroes, dancing 
with castanets in their hands, bells at their ankles and long 
feathers of jungle birds in their turbans. They sell live 

' Papets relating to the Aboriginal Tribes of the C.P., p. 6. 


quails and the skins of a species of Buceros named Dhan- 
chiria ; these are used for makinc^ caps and for hanc^ing up 
in houses in order to secure wealth {dha)/), while the thigh- 
bones of the same bird vv^hcn fastened round the waists 
of children are deemed an infallible preservative against the 
assaults of devils and other such calamities. Their wives tattoo 
the arms of Mindu and Gond women. Among them there 
is a subdivision known as the Mana Ojhas, who rank higher 
than the others. Laying claim to unusual sanctity, they 
refuse to eat with any one, Gonds, Rajputs or even Brahmans, 
and devote themselves to the manufacture of rings and bells 
which are in request among their own race, and even of 
lingas (phallic emblems) and 7iandts (bull images), which they 
sell to all ranks of the Hindu community. Their wives are 
distinguished by wearing the cloth of the upper part of the 
body over the right shoulder, whereas those of the common 
Ojhas and of all the other Gonds wear it over the left." 

Mr. Tawney wrote of the Ojhas as follows : ^ " The 
Ojha women do not dance. It is only men who do so, and 
when thus engaged they put on special attire and wear 
anklets with bells. The Ojhas like the Gonds are divided 
into six or seven god gots (classes or septs), and those 
with the same number of gods cannot intermarry. They 
worship at the same Deokhala (god's threshing-floor) as the 
Gonds, but being regarded as an inferior caste they are not 
allowed so near the sacred presence. Like the Gonds they 
incorporate the spirits of the dead wath the gods, but their 
manner of doing so is somewhat different, as they make an 
image of brass to represent the soul of the deceased and 
keep this with the household gods. As with the Gonds, if a 
household god makes himself too objectionable he is quietly 
buried to keep him out of mischief and a new god is intro- 
duced into the family. The latter should properly bear the 
same name as his degraded predecessor, but very often 
does not. The Ojhas are too poor to indulge in the luxury 
of burning their deceased friends and therefore invariably 
bury them." 

The customs of the Ojhas resemble those of the Gonds. 

^ Note by Mr. Tawney as Deputy in Central Provinces Census Report of 
Commissioner of Chhindwara, quoted 1S81 (Mr. Diysdale). 


They take the bride to the bridegroom's house to be married, 
and a widow among them is expected, though not obliged, 
to wed her late husband's younger brother. They eat the 
flesh of fowls, pigs, and even oxen, but abstain from that of 
monkeys, crocodiles and jackals. They will not touch an 
ass, a cat or a dog, and consider it sinful to kill animals 
which bark or bray. 

They will take food from the hands of all except the 
most impure castes, and will admit into the community 
any man who has taken an Ojha woman to live with him, 
even though he be a sweeper, provided that he will submit 
to the prescribed test of begging from the houses of five 
Gonds and eating the leavings of food of the other Ojhas. 
They will pardon the transgression of one of their women 
with an outsider of any caste whatever, if she is able and 
willing to provide the usual penalty feast. They have no 
sutak or period of impurity after a death, but merely take 
a mouthful of liquor and consider themselves clean. In 
physical appearance the Ojhas resemble the Gonds but 
are less robust. They rank below the Gonds and are con- 
sidered as impure by the Hindu castes. In 1865, an Ojha 
held a village in Hoshangabad District which he had 
obtained as follows : ^ " He was singing and dancing before 
Raja Raghuji, when the Raja said he would give a rent-free 
village to any one who would pick up and chew a quid of 
betel-leaf which he (the Raja) had had in his mouth and had 
spat out. The Ojha did this and got the village." 

The Maithil or Tirhut Brahmans who are especially 
learned in Tantric magic are also sometimes known as Ojha, 
and a family bearing this title were formerly in the service of 
the Gond kings of Mandla. They do not now admit that 
they acted as augurs or soothsayers, but state that their 
business was to pray continuously for the king's success 
when he was engaged in any battle, and to sit outside the 
rooms of sick persons repeating the sacred Gayatri verse for 
their recovery. This is often repeated ten times, counting 
by a special method on the joints of the fingers and is then 
known as Jap. When it is repeated a larger number of 
times, as 54 or 108, a rosary is used. 

' ,Sir C. A. Elliott's Hoshangabad Settlentait Report, p. 70. 


^Authorities : Tlie most complcle account of llie Oraons is a monograph 
entitled, The Kclii^ion and Ciistovis of the Oraons, by the late Rev. Father 
P. Dehon, published in 1906 in the Memoirs of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 
vol. i. No. 9. The tribe is also described at length by Colonel Dalton in The 
Eth)tosp-aphy of Bengal, and an article on it is included in Mr. (Sir H.) Risley's 
Tribes and Castes of Bengal. References to the Oraons are contained in Mr. 
Bradley-Birt's Chota Nagpitr, and Mr. '^TAWJitngle Life in India. The Kurukh 
language is treated by Dr. Grierson in the volume of the Linguistic Survey on 
Mitnda and Dravidian Lattgiiages. The following article is principally made 
up of extracts from the accounts of Father Dehon and Colonel Dalton. Papers 
have also been received from Mr. Ilira Lai, Mr. Baliiram Nand, Deputy Inspector 
of Schools, Saml)alpur, Mr. Jeorakhan Lai, Deputy Inspector of Schools, Bilaspur, 
and Munshi Kanhya Lai of the Gazetteer Office.] 


Minor i^odlings. 

Hiiinaii sacrifice. 


Fcsfivals. The Karvia or 

The Sal floiver festival. 
The harvest festival. 
Fast for the cj'ofs. 
Physical appeara7ice a7id cos- 

titiiie of the Oraons. 
D}'ess of ivomen. 
Social cttstonis. 
Social rules. 
29. Language. 

Oraon, Uraon, Kurukh, Dhangar, Kuda, Kisan. — i. General, 
The Oraons are an important Dravidian tribe of the Chota "°"'^^- 
Nagpur plateau, numbering altogether about 750,000 persons, 
of whom 85,000 now belong to the Central Provinces, being 
residents of the Jashpur and Sarguja States and the neigh- 



General notice. 



Settlement itt Chota Nagpitr. 






Pre-nnptial licence. 





Marriage cejrinony. 



Special customs. 



\Vido7U-re marriage and di7>07-ce' 



Customs at birth. 



Naming a child. 

1 1. 

Branding and tattooing. 



Dormitory discipline. 



Disposal of the dead. 



Worship of ancestors. 



Religio7i. The sitp7r/7ie deity. 



bouring tracts. They are commonly known in the Central 
Provinces as Dhangar or Dhangar-Oraon. In Chota Nagpur 
the word Dhangar means a farmservant engaged according to 
a special customary contract, and it has come to be applied 
to the Oraons, who are commonly employed in this capacity. 
Kuda means a digger or navvy in Uriya, and enquiries made 
by Mr. B. C. Mazumdar and Mr. Hira Lai have demonstrated 
that the 1 8,000 persons returned under this designation from 
Raigarh and Sambalpur in 1901 were really Oraons. The 
same remark applies to 33,000 persons returned from Sambal- 
pur as Kisan or cultivator, these also being members of the 
tribe. The name by which the Oraons know themselves is 
Kurukh or Kurunkh, and the designation of Oraon or Orao 
has been applied to them by outsiders. The meaning of 
both names is obscure. Dr. Halm ^ was of opinion that the 
word ktirukh might be identified with the Kolarian horo, man, 
and explained the term Oraon as the totem of one of the 
septs into which the Kurukhs were divided. According to 
him Oraon was a name coined by the Hindus, its base being 
orgordn, hawk or cunny bird, used as the name of a totemistic 
sept. Sir G. Grierson, however, suggested a connection with 
the Kaikari, iirupai, man ; Burgandi urapo^ man ; iirdng, men. 
The Kaikaris are a Telugu caste, and as the Oraons are 
believed to have come from the south of India, this deriva- 
tion sounds plausible. . In a similar way Sir. G. Grierson 
states, Kurukh may be connected with Tamil kurugu, an eagle, 
and be the name of a totemistic clan. Compare also names, 
such as Korava, Kurru, a dialect of Tamil, and Kudagu. In 
the Nerbudda valley the farmservant who pours the seed 
through the tube of the sowing-plough is known as Oraya ; 
this word is probably derived from the verb urna to pour, and 
means ' one who pours.' Since the principal characteristic of 
the Oraons among the Hindus is their universal employment 
as farmservants and labourers, it may be suggested that the 
name is derived from this term. Of the other names by 
which they are known to outsiders Dhangar means a farm- 
servant, Kuda a digger, and Kisan a cultivator. The name 
Oraon and its variant Orao is very close to Oraya, which, 
as already seen, means a farmservant. The nasal seems to 

' Linguistic Sui~i>ey, vol. iv. p. 406. 


be often added or omitted in this part of the country, as 
Kurukh or Kurunkh. 

According to their own traditions, Mr. Gait writes/ 2. Setiic- 
" The Kurukh tribe originally lived in the Carnatic, whence "\'^"* '" 
they went up the Nerbudda river and settled in Bihar on the Xagpur. 
banks of the Son. Driven out by the Muhammadans, the 
tribe split into two divisions, one of which followed the 
course of the Ganges and finally settled in the Rajmahal 
hills : while the other went up the Son and occupied the 
north-western portion of the Chota Nagpur plateau, where 
many of the villages they occupy are still known by Mundari 
names. The latter were the ancestors of the Oraons or 
Kurukhs, while the former were the progenitors of the Male 
or Saonria as they often call themselves." Towards Lohar- 
daga the Oraons found themselves among the Mundas or 
Kols, who probably retired by degrees and left them in 
possession of the country. " The Oraons," Father Dehon 
states, " are an exceedingly prolific tribe and soon become 
the preponderant element, while the Mundas, being con- 
servative and averse to living among strangers, emigrate 
towards another jungle. The Mundas hate zamlndars, and 
whenever they can do so, prefer to live in a retired corner 
in full possession of their small holding ; and it is not at 
all improbable that, as the zamlndars took possession of the 
newly-formed villages, they retired towards the east, while 
the Oraons, being good beasts of burden and more accus- 
tomed to subjection, remained." In view of the fine 
physique and martial character of the Larka or Fighting 
Kols or Mundas, Dalton was sceptical of the theory that 
they could ever have retired before the Oraons ; but in 
addition to the fact that many villages in which Oraons 
now live have Mundari names, it may be noted that the 
headman of an Oraon village is termed Munda and is 
considered to be descended from its founder, while for the 
Pahan or priest of the village gods, the Oraons always 
employ a Munda if available, and it is one of the Pahan's 
duties to point out the boundary of the village in cases 
of dispute ; this is a function regularly assigned to the 
earliest residents, and seems to be strong evidence that 

* Bengal Census Report ( 1 90 1 ). 



the Oraons found the Mundas settled in Chota Nagpur 
when they arrived there. It is not necessary to suppose 
that any conquest or forcible expropriation took place ; 
and it is probable that, as the country was opened up, the 
Mundas by preference retired to the wilder forest tracts, 
just as in the Central Provinces the Korkus and Baigas 
gave way to the Gonds, and the Gonds themselves relinquished 
the open country to the Hindus. None of the writers quoted 
notice the name Munda as applied to the headman of an 
Oraon village, but it can hardly be doubted that it is con- 
nected with that of the tribe ; and it would be interesting also 
to know whether the Pahan or village priest takes his name 
from the Pans or Gandas. Dalton says that the Pans are 
domesticated as essential constituents of every Ho or Kol 
village community, but does not allude to their presence 
among the Oraons. The custom in the Central Provinces, 
by which in Gond villages the village priest is always known 
as Baiga, because in some localities members of the Baiga 
tribe are commonly employed in the office, suggests the 
hypothesis of a similar usage here. In villages first settled 
by Oraons, the population. Father Dehon states, is divided 
into three khunts or branches, named after the Munda, 
Pahan and Mahto, the founders of the three branches being 
held to have been sons of the first settler. Members of each 
branch belong therefore to the same sept or got. Each 
khiint has a share of the village lands. 
3. Sub- The Oraons have no proper subcastes in the Central 

divisions. Provinces, but the Kudas and Kisans, having a distinctive 
name and occupation, sometimes regard themselves as 
separate bodies and decline intermarriage with other Oraons. 
In Bengal Sir H. Risley gives five divisions, Barga, Dhanka, 
Kharia, Khendro and Munda ; of these Kharia and Munda 
are the names of other tribes, and Dhanka may be a variant 
for Dhangar. The names show that as usual with the tribes of 
this part of the country the law of endogamy is by no means 
strict. The tribe have also a large number of exogamous 
septs of the totemistic type, named after plants and animals. 
Members of any sept commonly abstain from killing or eat- 
ing their sept totem. A man must not marry a member of 
his own sept nor a first cousin on the mother's side. 


Marriage is adult and prc-nuptial unchastity appears to 4. prc- 
bc tacitly recognised. Oraon villages have the institution ""''^'^^ 

_ licence. 

of the Dhumkuria or Bachelors' dormitory, which Dalton 
describes as follows:^ "In all the older Oraon villages when 
there is any conservation of ancient customs, there is a house 
called the Dhumkuria in which all the bachelors of the village 
must sleep under penalty of a fine. The huts of the Oraons 
have insufficient accommodation for a family, so that separate 
quarters for the young men are a necessity. The same remark 
applies to the young unmarried women, and it is a fact that 
they do not sleep in the house with their parents. They are 
generally frank enough when questioned about their habits, 
but on this subject there is always a certain amount of 
reticence, and I have seen girls quietly withdraw when it was 
mooted. I am told that in some villages a separate building 
is provided for them like the Dhumkuria, in which they con- 
sort under the guardianship of an elderly duenna, but I 
believe the more common practice is to distribute them 
among the houses of the widows, and this is what the girls 
themselves assert, if they answer at all when the question is 
asked ; but however billeted, it is well known that they often 
find their way to the bachelors' hall, and in some villages 
actually sleep there. I not long ago saw a Dhumkuria in a 
Sarguja village in which the boys and girls all slept every 
night." Colonel Dalton considered it uncertain that the 
practice led to actual immorality, but the fact can hardly 
be doubted. Sexual intercourse before marriage. Sir H. 
Risley says, is tacitly recognised, and is so generally practised 
that in the opinion of the best observers no Oraon girl is a 
virgin at the time of her marriage. " To call this state of 
things immoral is to apply a modern conception to primitive 
habits of life. Within the tribe, indeed, the idea of sexual 
morality seems hardly to exist, and the unmarried Oraons 
are not far removed from the condition of modified promis- 
cuity which prevails among many of the Australian tribes. 
Provided that the exogamous circle defined by the totem 
is respected, an unmarried woman may bestow her favours 
on whom she will. If, however, she becomes pregnant, 
arrangements are made to get her married without delay, 

^ Ethnography, p. 248. 




and she is then expected to lead a virtuous life." ^ Accord- 
ing to Dalton, however, liaisons between boys and girls of 
the same village seldom end in marriage, as it is considered 
more respectable to bring home a bride from a distance. 
This appears to arise from the primitive rule of exogamy 
that marriage should not be allowed between those who 
have been brought up together. The young men can choose 
for themselves, and at dances, festivals and other social gather- 
ings they freely woo their sweethearts, giving them flowers for 
the hair and presents of grilled field-mice, which the Oraons 
consider to be the most delicate of food. Father Dehon, how- 
ever, states that matches are arranged by the parents, and 
the bride and bridegroom have nothing to say in the matter. 
Boys are usually married at sixteen and girls at fourteen or 
fifteen. The girls thus have only about two years of pre- 
liminary flirtation or Dhiimkuria life before they are settled. 
5- ^ The first ceremony for a marriage is known as pan 

bandhi or the settling of the price ; for which the boy's 
father, accompanied by some men of his village to represent 
ihepanch or elders, goes to the girl's house. Father Dehon 
states that the bride-price is five rupees and four maunds of 
grain. When this has been settled the rejoicings begin. 
" All the people of the village are invited ; two boys come 
and anoint the visitors with oil. From every house of the 
village that can afford it a handia or pot of rice-beer is 
brought, and they drink together and make merry. All 
this time the girl has been kept inside, but now she 
suddenly sallies forth carrying a handia on her head. 
A murmur of admiration greets her when stepping through 
the crowd she comes and stands in front of her future 
father-in-law, who at once takes the handia from her head, 
embraces her, and gives her one rupee. From that time 
during the whole of the feast the girl remains sitting at 
the feet of her father-in-law. The whole party meanwhile 
continue drinking and talking ; and voices rise so high that 
they cannot hear one. another. As a diversion the old 
women of the village all come tumbling in, very drunk and 
wearing fantastic hats made of leaves, gesticulating like 
devils and carrying a straw manikin representing the 
' Tribes and Castes, vol, ii. p. 141. 


bridegroom. They all look like old witches, and in their 
drunken state are very mischievous." 

The marriage takes place after about two years, visits 6. Mar- 
being exchanged twice a year in the meantime. When the "^'^^^ 

° . . ceremony. 

day comes the bridegroom proceeds with a large party of his 
friends, male and female, to the bride's house. Most of the 
males have warlike weapons, real or sham, and as they 
approach the village of the bride's family the young men from 
thence emerge, also armed, as if to repel the invasion, and a 
mimic fight ensues, which like a dissolving view blends 
pleasantly into a dance. In this the bride and bridegroom 
join, each riding on the hips of one of their friends. After 
this they have a feast till late in the night. Next morning 
bread cooked by the bride's mother is taken to the dari or 
village spring, where all the women partake of it. When 
they have finished they bring a vessel of water with some 
leaves of the mango tree in it. Meanwhile the bride and 
bridegroom are in the house, being anointed with oil and 
turmeric by their respective sisters. When everybody has 
gathered under the marriage-bower the boy and girl are 
brought out of the house and a heap is made of a plough- 
yoke, a bundle of thatching-grass and a curry-stone. The 
bride and bridegroom are made to stand on the curry-stone, 
the boy touching the heels of the bride with his toes, and a 
long piece of cloth is put round them to screen them from 
the public. Only their heads and feet can be seen. A 
goblet full of vermilion is presented to the boy, who dips his 
finger in it and makes three lines on the forehead of the girl ; 
and the girl does the same to the boy, but as she has to 
reach him over her shoulder and cannot see him, the boy 
gets it anywhere on his face, which never fails to provoke 
hearty bursts of laughter. " When this is complete," Dalton 
states, " a gun is fired and then by some arrangement vessels 
full of water, placed over the bower, are upset, and the young 
couple and those near them receive a drenching shower- 
bath, the women shouting, ' The marriage is done, the 
marriage is done.' They now retire into an apartment 
prepared for them, ostensibly to change their clothes, but 
they do not emerge for some time, and when they do appear 
they are saluted as man and wife." 



7. Special Meanwhile the guests sit round drinking Jiandias or 

customs. earthen pots full of rice-beer. The bride and bridegroom 
come out and retire a second time and are called out for the 
following rite. A vessel of beer is brought and the bride 
carries a cupful of it to the bridegroom's brother, but instead 
of giving it into his hand she deposits it on the ground in 
front of him. This is to seal a kind of tacit agreement that 
from that time the bridegroom's brother will not touch his 
sister-in-law, and was probably instituted to mark the 
abolition of the former system of fraternal polyandry, 
customs of an analogous nature being found among the 
Khonds and Korkus. " Then," Father Dehon continues, 
" comes the last ceremony, which is called khiritengna 
Jiandia or the Jiandia of the story, and is considered by the 
Oraons to be the true form of marriage vvhich has been 
handed down to them by their forefathers. The boy 
and girl sit together before the people, and one of the 
elder men present rises and addressing the boy says : ' If 
your wife goes to fetch sag and falls from a tree and breaks 
her leg, do not say that she is disfigured or crippled. You 
will have to keep and feed her.' Then turning to the girl : 
' When your husband goes hunting, if his arm or leg is 
broken, do not say, " He is a cripple, I won't live with him." 
Do not say that, for you have to remain with him. If you 
prepare meat, give two shares to him and keep only one for 
yourself If you prepare vegetables, give him two parts and 
keep only one part for yourself If he gets sick and cannot 
go out, do not say that he is dirty, but clean his mat and 
wash him.' A feast follows, and at night the girl is brought 
to the boy by her mother, who says to him, ' Now this my 
child is yours ; I do not give her for a few days but for 
ever ; take care of her and love her well.' A companion 
of the bridegroom's then seizes the girl in his arms and 
carries her inside the house." 
8. Widow- It is uncommon for a man to have two wives. Divorce 

and^"^"^'^^^ is permitted, and is usually effected by the boy or girl 
divorce. running away to the Duars or Assam. Widow-remarriage 
is a regular practice. The first time a widow marries again, 
Father Dehon states, the bridegroom must pay Rs. 3-8 for 
her; if successive husbands die her price goes down by a 


rupee on each fresh marriage, so that a fifth husband would 
pay only eight annas. Cases of adultery are comparatively 
rare. When offenders are caught a heavy fine is imposed if 
they are well-to-do, and if they are not, a smaller fine and a 

" The Oraons," Father Dehon continues, " are a very 9. Customs 
prolific race, and whenever they are allowed to live without ^^ "^''' 
being too much oppressed they increase prodigiously. What 
strikes you when you come to an Oraon village is the 
number of small dirty children playing everywhere, while 
you can scarcely meet a woman that does not carry a baby 
on her back. The women seem, to a great extent, to have 
been exempted from the curse of our first mother : * Thou 
shalt bring forth, etc' They seem to give birth to their 
children with the greatest ease. There is no period of 
uncleanness, and the very day after giving birth to a child, 
you will see the mother with her baby tied up in a cloth on 
her back and a pitcher on her head going, as if nothing had 
happened, to the village spring." This practice, it may be 
remarked in parenthesis, may arise from the former observance 
of the Couvade, the peculiar custom prevailing among 
several primitive races, by which, when a child is born, the 
father lies in the house and pretends to be ill, while the 
mother gets up immediately and goes about her work. 
The custom has been reported as existing among the 
Oraons by one observer from Bilaspur,^ but so far without 

" A child is named eight or ten days after birth, and 10. 
on this day some men of the village and the members of the ^^/^'I'/j" 
family assemble at the parents' house. Two leaf-cups are 
brought, one full of water and the other of rice. After a 
preliminary formula grains of rice are let fall into the cup, 
first in the name of the child and then successively in those 
of his ancestors in the following order: paternal grandfather, 
paternal great-grandfather, father, paternal uncle, maternal 
grandfather, other relatives. When the grain dropped in 
the name of any relative meets the first one dropped to 
represent the child, he is given the name of that relative and 
is probably considered to be a reincarnation of him." 
1 Panna Lai, Revenue Inspector. 



II. Brand- 
ing and 

" When a boy is six or seven years old it is time for 
him to become a member of the Dhumkuria or common 
dormitory. The eldest boys catch hold of his left arm 
and, with burning cloth, burn out five deep marks on the 
lower part of his arm. This is done so that he may be 
recognised as an Oraon at his death when he goes into the 
other world." The ceremony was probably the initiation 
to manhood on arrival at puberty, and resembled those 
prevalent among the Australian tribes. With this exception 
men are not tattooed, but this decoration is profusely 
resorted to by women. They have three parallel vertical 
lines on the forehead which form a distinctive mark, and 
other patterns on the arms, chest, knees and ankles. These 
usually consist of lines vertical and horizontal as shown 
below : 

12. Dor- 

13. Dis- 
jjo.sal of 
tlio d(!ad. 

The marks on the knees are considered to be steps 
by which the wearer will ascend to heaven after her death. 
If a baby cries much it is also tattooed on the nose 
and chin. 

The Dhumkuria fraternity, Colonel Dalton remarks, are, 
under the severest penalties, bound down to secrecy in 
regard to all that takes place in their dormitory ; and even 
girls are punished if they dare to tell tales. They are not 
allowed to join in the dances till the offence is condoned. They 
have a regular system of fagging in this curious institution. 
The small boys serve those of larger growth, shampoo their 
limbs, comb their hair, and so on, and they are sometimes 
subjected to severe discipline to make men of them. 

The Oraons either bury or burn the dead. As the 
corpse is carried to the grave, beginning from the first cross- 
roads, they sprinkle a line of rice as far as the grave or pyre. 


This is done so that the soul of the deceased may find its way 
back to the house. Before the burial or cremation cooked 
food and some small pieces of money arc placed in the mouth 
of the corpse. They are subsequently, however, removed or 
recovered from the ashes and taken by the musicians as their 
fee. Some clothes belonging to the deceased and a vessel 
with some rice are either burnt with the corpse or placed in 
the grave. As the grave is being filled in they place a stalk 
oiorai^ grass vertically on the head of the corpse and gradually 
draw it upwards as the earth is piled on the grave. They 
say that this is done in order to leave a passage for the air 
to pass to the nostrils of the deceased. This is the grass 
from which reed pens are made, and the stalk is hard and 
hollow. Afterwards they plant a root of the same grass 
where the stalk is standing over the head of the corpse. On 
the tenth day they sacrifice a pig and fowl and bury the legs, 
tail, ears and nose of the pig in a hole with seven balls of 
iron dross. They then proceed to the grave scattering a 
little parched rice all the way along the path. Cooked rice 
is offered at the grave. If the corpse has been burnt 
they pick up the bones and place them in a pot, which is 
brought home and hung up behind the dead man's house. 
At night-time a relative sits inside the house watching a 
burning lamp, while some friends go outside the village and 
make a miniature hut with sticks and grass and set fire to it. 
They then call out to the dead man, ' Come, your house is 
being burnt,' and walk home striking a mattock and sickle 
together. On coming to the house they kick down the matting 
which covers the doorway ; the man inside says, ' Who are 
you ? ' and they answer, ' It is we.' They watch the lamp and 
when the flame wavers they believe it to show that the spirit 
of the deceased has followed them and has also entered the 
house. Next day the bones are thrown into a river and the 
earthen pot broken against a stone. 

The pitras or ancestors are worshipped at every festival, 14. Wor- 
and when the new rice is reaped a hen is offered to them, f^^ces^ors 
They pray to their dead parents to accept the offering and 
then place a few grains of rice before the hen. If she 
eats them, it is a sign that the ancestors have accepted 

' Sorghum halepense. 


the offering and a man kills the hen by crushing its head 
with his closed fist. This is probably, as remarked by 
Father Dehon, in recollection of the method employed before 
the introduction of knives, and the same explanation may 
be given of the barbaric method of the Baigas of crushing a 
pig to death by a beam of wood used as a see-saw across its 
body, and of the Gond bride and bridegroom killing a fowl 
by treading on it when they first enter their house after the 

15. Reii- The following account of the tribal religion is abridged 
gion. The fj-Qj^ Father Dehon's full and interesting description : 

supreme ° '■ 

» deity. " The Oraons worship a supreme god who is known as 

Dharmes ; him they invoke in their greatest difficulties when 
recourse to the village priests and magicians has proved 
useless. Then they turn to Dharmes and say, ' Now we 
have tried everything, but we have still you who can help 
' us.' They sacrifice to him a white cock. They think that 
god is too good to punish them, and that they are not 
answerable to him in any way for their conduct ; they believe 
that everybody will be treated in the same way in the other 
world. There is no hell for them or place of punishment, 
but everybody will go to mcrkJia or heaven. The Red 
Indians speak of the happy hunting-grounds and the Oraons 
imagine something like the happy ploughing-grounds, where 
everybody will have plenty of land, plenty of bullocks to 
plough it with, and plenty of rice-beer to drink after his 
labour. They look on god as a big zamindar or landowner, 
who does nothing himself, but keeps a cJiaprdsi as an agent 
or debt-collector ; and they conceive the latter as having 
all the defects so common to his profession. Baranda, 
the chaprdsi, exacts tribute from them mercilessly, not 
exactly out of zeal for the service of his master, but out of 
greed for his talbdna or perquisites. When making a sacri- 
fice to Dharmes they pray : ' O god, from to-day do not 
send any more your cJiaprdsi to punish us. You see we 
have paid our respects to you, and we are going to give 
him his dasiilj-i (tip).' 

16. Minor " ]',ut in the concerns of this world, to obtain good 
crops and freedom from sickness, a host of minor deities have 
to be propitiated. These consist of bhilts or spirits of the 



household, the sept, the villajj^c, and common deities, such 
as the earth and sun. Chola Pacho or the lady of the 
grove lives in the sarna or sacred grove, which has been 
left standing when the forest was cleared. She is credited 
with the power of giving rain and consequently good 
crops. Churcl is the shade of a woman who has died 
while pregnant or in childbirth. She hovers over her 
burial-place and is an object of horror and fright to every 
passer-by. It is her nature to look out for a companion, and 
she is said always to choose that member of a family whom 
she liked best during her lifetime. She will then come at 
night and embrace him and tickle him under the arms, making 
him laugh till he dies. Bhula or the wanderers are the shades 
of persons who have died an unnatural death, either having 
been murdered, hanged, or killed by a tiger. ' They all keep 
the scars of their respective wounds and one can imagine 
what a weird-looking lot they are. They are always on 
the move, and are, as it were, the mendicant portion of 
the invisible community. They are not very powerful and 
are responsible only for small ailments, like nightmares and 
slight indispositions. When an Ojha or spirit-raiser dis- 
covers that a Bhula has appeared in the light of his lamp he 
shows a disappointed face, and says : ' Pshaw, only Bhula ! ' 
No sacrifice is offered to him, but the Ojha then and there 
takes a few grains of rice, rubs them in charcoal and throws 
them at the flame of his lamp, saying, * Take this, Bhula, and 
go away.' Murkuri is the thumping bJiiit. Europeans to 
show their kindness and familiarity thump people on the 
back. If this is followed by fever or any kind of sickness 
it will be ascribed to the passing of Murkuri from the body 
of the European into the body of the native. 

" Chordeiua is a witch rather than a h/iilt. It is believed 
that some women have the power to change their soul into 
a black cat, who then goes about in the houses where there 
are sick people. Such a cat has a peculiar way of mewing, 
quite different from its brethren, and is easily recognised. 
It steals quietly into the house, licks the lips of the sick man 
and eats the food which has been prepared for him. The 
sick man soon gets worse and dies. They say it is very 
difficult to catch the cat, as it has all the nimbleness of its 



nature and the cleverness of a b/ult. However, they some- 
times succeed, and then something wonderful happens. 
The woman out of whom the cat has come remains insen- 
sible, as it were in a state of temporary death, until the cat 
re-enters her body. Any wound inflicted on the cat will be 
inflicted on her ; if they cut its ears or break its legs or put 
out its eyes the woman will suffer the same mutilation. The 
Oraons say that formerly they used to burn any woman 
who was suspected of being a CJwrdezva. 
17. Human " There is also Anna Kuari or Mahadhani, who is in our 

estimation the most cruel and repulsive deity of all, as she 
requires human sacrifice. Those savage people, who put good 
crops above everything, look upon her in a different light. She 
can give good crops and make a man rich, and this covers a 
multitude of sins. People may be sceptical about it and say 
that it is impossible that in any part of India under the British 
Government there should still be human sacrifices. Well, 
in spite of all the vigilance of the authorities, there are still 
human sacrifices in Chota Nagpur. As the vigilance of the 
authorities increases, so also does the carefulness of the 
Urkas or Otongas increase. They choose for their victims 
poor waifs or strangers, whose disappearance no one will 
notice. April and May are the months in which the Urkas 
are at work. Dolsa, Panari, Kukra and Sarguja have a very 
bad reputation. During these months no strangers will go 
about the country alone and during that time nowhere will 
boys and girls be allowed to go to the jungle and graze the 
cattle for fear of the Urkas. When an Urka has found a 
victim he cuts his throat and carries away the upper part of 
the ring finger and the nose. Anna Kuari finds votaries 
not only among the Oraons, but especially among the big 
zamlndars and Rajas of the Native States. When a man 
has offered a sacrifice to Anna Kuari she goes and lives in 
his house in the form of a small child. From that time his 
fields yield double harvest, and when he brings in his paddy 
he takes Anna Kuari and rolls her over the heap to double 
its size. But she soon becomes restless and is only pacified 
by new human sacrifices. At last after some years she 
cannot bear remaining in the same house any more and kills 
every one." 


In Jashpur State where the Oraons number 47,000 18. Chris- 
about half the total number have become Christians. The "^"'^>'- 
non-Christians call themselves Sansar, and the principal 
difference between them is that the Christians have cut off 
the pigtail, while the Sansar retain it. In some families the 
father may be a Sansar and the son a Kiristan, and they 
live together without any distinction. The Christians belong 
to the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Missions, but though 
they all know their Church, they naturally have little or no 
idea of the distinctions of doctrine. 

The principal festivals are the Sarhul, celebrated when 19. Festi- 
the sal tree ■* flowers, the Karma or May-day when the rice Kirma^r^ 
is read}^ for planting out, and the Kanihari or harvest May-day. 

" At the Karma festival a party of young people of both 
sexes," says Colonel Dalton, " proceed to the forest and cut 
a young karma tree {Nauclca parvifolia) or the branch of 
one ; they bear this home in triumph and plant it in the 
centre of the Akhara or wrestling ground. Next morning 
all may be seen at an early hour in holiday array, the elders 
in groups under the fine old tamarind trees that surround 
the Akhara, and the youth of both sexes, arm-linked in a 
huge circle, dancing round the karma tree, which, festooned 
with garlands, decorated with strips of coloured cloth and 
sham bracelets and necklets of plaited straw, and with the 
bright faces and merry laughter of the young people 
encircling it, reminds one of the gift-bearing tree so often 
introduced at our own great festival." The tree, however, 
probably corresponds to the English Maypole, and the 
festival celebrates the renewal of vegetation. 

At the SarhQl festival the marriage of the sun-god and 20. The 
earth-mother is celebrated, and this cannot be done till the f|!s^ji'|.°i^'^' 
sal tree gives the flowers for the ceremony. It takes place 
about the beginning of April on any day when the tree is in 
flower. A white cock is taken to represent the sun and a 
black hen the earth ; their marriage is celebrated by marking 
them with vermilion, and they are sacrificed. The villagers 
then accompany the Pahan or Baiga, the village priest, to 
the sarna or sacred grove, a remnant of the old sal forest in 

1 Shorea robiisfa. 


which is located Sarna Burhi or ' The old women of the 
grove.' " To this dryad," writes Colonel Dalton, " who is 
supposed to have great influence over the rain (a superstition 
not improbably founded on the importance of trees as cloud- 
compellers), the party offer five fowls, which are afterwards 
eaten, and the remainder of the day is spent in feasting. 
They return laden with the flowers of the sal tree, and next 
morning with the Baiga pay a visit to every house, carrying 
the flowers. The women of the village all stand on the 
threshold of their houses, each holding two leaf-cups ; one 
empty to receive the holy water ; the other with rice-beer 
for the Baiga. His reverence stops at each house, and 
places flowers over it and in the hair of the women. He 
sprinkles the holy water on the seeds that have been kept 
for the new year and showers blessings on every house, 
saying, 'May your rooms and granary be filled with paddy 
that the Baiga's name may be great' When this is accom- 
plished the woman throws a vessel of water over his vener- 
able person, heartily dousing the man whom the moment 
before they were treating with such profound respect. This 
is no doubt a rain-charm, and is a familiar process. The 
Baiga is prevented from catching cold by being given the 
cup of rice-beer and is generally gloriously drunk before he 
completes his round. There is now a general feast, and 
afterwards the youth of both sexes, gaily decked with the 
sal blossoms, the pale cream-white flowers of which make 
the most becoming of ornaments against their dusky skins 
and coal-black hair, proceed to the Akhara and dance all 
21. The The Kanihari, as described by Father Dehon, is held 

harvest pi-gyious to the threshing of the rice, and none is allowed to 

festival, i ^ ' 

prepare his threshing-floor until it has been celebrated. It 
can only take place on a Tuesday. A fowl is sacrificed and 
its blood sprinkled on the new rice. In the evening a 
common feast is held at which the Baiga presides, and when 
this is over they go to the place where Mahadeo is wor- 
shipped and the Baiga pours milk over the stone that 
represents him. The people then dance. Plenty of rice- 
beer is brought, and a scene of debauchery takes place in 
which all restraint is put aside. They sing the most obscene 


songs and give vent to all their passions. On that clay no 
one is responsible for any breach of morality. 

Like other primitive races, and the Hindus generally, the 22. Fast 
Oraons observe the Lenten fast, as explained by Sir J.G. Frazcr, ^rons^ 
after sowing their crops. Having committed his seed with 
every propitiatory rite to the bosom of Mother Earth, the 
savage waits with anxious expectation to see whether she 
will once again perform on his behalf the yearly miracle of 
the renewal of vegetation, and the growth of the corn-plants 
from the seed which the Greeks typified by the descent of 
Proserpine into Hades for a season of the year and her 
triumphant re-emergence to the ui)pcr air. Meanwhile 
he fasts and atones for any sin or shortcoming of his 
which may possibly have offended the goddess and cause 
her to hold her hand. From the beginning of AsdrJi 
(June) the Oraons cease to shave, abstain from eating 
turmeric, and make no leaf-plates for their food, but eat 
it straight from the cooking-vessel. This they now say 
is to prevent the field-mice from consuming the seeds of 
the rice. 

"The colour of most Oraons," Sir H. Risley states, "is 23. Physi- 
the darkest brown approaching to black ; the hair being jet- ^^^e anT*^" 
black, coarse and rather inclined to be frizzy. Projecting costume 
jaws and teeth, thick lips, low narrow foreheads, and broad oraons 
flat noses are the features characteristic of the tribe. The 
eyes are often bright and full, and no obliquity is observable 
in the opening of the eyelids." 

" The Oraon youths," Dalton states, " though with 
features very far from being in accordance with the statutes 
of beauty, are of a singularly pleasing class, their faces 
beaming with animation and good humour. They are a small 
race, averaging 4 feet 5 inches, but there is perfect proportion 
in all parts of their form, and their supple, pliant, lithe figures 
are often models of symmetr}^ There is about the young 
Oraon a jaunty air and mirthful expression that distinguishes 
him from the Munda or Ho, who has more of the dignified 
gravity that is said to characterise the North American 
Indian. The Oraon is particular about his personal appear- 
ance only so long as he is unmarried, but he is in no hurry 
to withdraw from the Dhumkuria community, and generally 


his first youth is passed before he resigns his decorative 

" He wears his hair long Hke a woman, gathered in a 
knot behind, supporting, when he is in gala costume, a red 
or white turban. In the knot are wooden combs and other 
instruments useful and ornamental, with numerous ornaments 
of brass.^ At the very extremity of the roll of hair gleams 
a small circular mirror set in brass, from which, and also 
from his ears, bright brass chains with spiky pendants dangle, 
and as he moves with the springy elastic step of youth and 
tosses his head like a high-mettled steed in the buoyancy of 
his animal spirits, he sets all his glittering ornaments in 
motion and displays as he laughs a row of teeth, round, 
white and regular, that give light and animation to his 
dusky features. He wears nothing in the form of a coat ; 
his decorated neck and chest are undraped, displaying how 
the latter tapers to the waist, which the young dandies com- 
press within the smallest compass. In addition to the cloth, 
there is always round the waist a girdle of cords made of 
tasar-silk or of cane. This is now a superfluity, but it is no 
doubt the remnant of a more primitive costume, perhaps the 
support of the antique fig-leaves. 

" Out of the age of ornamentation nothing can be more 
untidy or more unprepossessing than the appearance of the 
Oraon; The ornaments are nearly all discarded, hair utterly 
neglected, and for raiment any rags are used. This applies 
both to males and females of middle age. 
24. Dress " The drcss of the women consists of one cloth, six yards 

long, gracefully adjusted so as to form a shawl and a petti- 
coat. The upper end is thrown over the left shoulder and 
falls with its fringe and ornamented border prettily over the 
back of the figure. Vast quantities of red beads and a 
large, heavy brass ornament shaped like a torque are worn 
round the neck. On the left hand are rings of copper, as 
many as can be induced on each finger up to the first joint, 
on the right hand a smaller quantity ; rings on the second 
toe only of brass or bell-metal, and anklets and bracelets of 
the same material arc also worn." The women wear only 

' In Bilaspur the men have an iron and two prongs like a fork. Women 
comb in the hair with a circular end do not wear this. 

of women. 


metal and not glass bangles, and this with the three vertical 
tattoo-marks on the forehead and the fact that the head and 
right arm are uncovered enables them to be easily recog- 
nised. " The hair is made tolerably smooth and amenable 
by much lubrication, and false hair or some other substance 
is used to give size to the mass into which it is gathered not 
immediately behind, but more or less on one side, so that it 
lies on the neck just behind and touching the right ear ; and 
flowers are arranged in a receptacle made for them between 
the roll of hair and the head." Rings are worn in the lobes 
of the ear, but not other ornaments. " When in dancing 
costume on grand occasions they add to their head-dress 
plumes of heron feathers, and a gay bordered scarf is tightly 
bound round the upper part of the body." 

" The tribe I am treating of are seen to best advantage 25. 
at the great national dance meetings called Jatras, which 
are held once a year at convenient centres, generally 
large mango groves in the vicinity of old villages. As 
a signal to the country round, the flags of each village 
are brought out on the day fixed and set upon the road 
that leads to the place of meeting. This incites the young 
men and maidens to hurry through their morning's work 
and look up their jatra dresses, which are by no means 
ordinary attire. Those who have some miles to go put up 
their finery in a bundle to keep it fresh and clean, and 
proceed to some tank or stream in the vicinity of the tryst 
grove ; and about two o'clock in the afternoon may be seen 
all around groups of girls laughingly making their toilets in 
the open air, and young men in separate parties similarly 
employed. When they are ready the drums are beaten, 
huge horns are blown, and thus summoned the group from 
each village forms its procession. In front are young men 
with swords and shields or other weapons, the village 
standard-bearers with their flags, and boys waving yaks' 
tails or bearing poles with fantastic arrangements of garlands 
and wreaths intended to represent umbrellas of dignity. 
Sometimes a man riding on a wooden horse is carried, 
horse and all, by his friends as the Raja, and others assume 
the form of or paint themselves up to represent certain 
beasts of prey. Behind this motley group the main body 



form compactly together as a close column of dancers in 
alternate ranks of boys and girls, and thus they enter the 
grove, where the meeting is held in a cheery dashing style, 
wheeling and countermarching and forming lines, circles and 
columns with grace and precision. The dance with these 
movements is called kharia, and it is considered to be an 
Oraon rather than a Munda dance, though Munda girls join 
in it. When they enter the grove the different groups join 
and dance the kharia together, forming one vast procession 
and then a monstrous circle. The drums and musical 
instruments are laid aside, and it is by the voices alone that 
the time is given ; but as many hundreds, nay, thousands, 
join, the effect is imposing. In serried ranks, so closed up 
that they appear jammed, they circle round in file, all keeping 
perfect step, but at regular intervals the strain is terminated 
by a Jmrurii, which reminds one of Paddy's ' huroosh ' as 
he ' welts the floor,' and at the same moment they all face 
inwards and simultaneously jumping up come down on the 
ground with a resounding stamp that makes the finale of the 
movements, but only for a momentary pause. One voice 
With a startling yell takes up the strain again, a fresh start 
is made, and after gyrating thus till they tire of it the ring 
breaks up, and separating into village groups they perform 
other dances independently till near sunset, and then go 
dancing home." 
26. Social But more often they go on all night. Mr. Ball mentions 

customs. |-}^cir dance as follows : ^ " The Oraon dance was dis- 
tinct from any I had seen by the Santals or other races. 
The girls, carefully arranged in lines by sizes, with the 
tallest at one end and the smallest at the other, firmly 
grasp one another's hands, and the whole movements are so 
perfectly in concert that they spring about with as much 
agility as could a single individual." Father Dehon gives 
the following interesting notice of their social customs : 
" The Oraons are very sociable beings, and like to enjoy 
life together. They are paying visits or paJiis to one another 
nearly the whole year round. In these the Jiandia (beer-jar) 
always plays a great part. Any man who would presume 
to receive visitors without offering them a handia would be 

' Jungle Life in India, p. 1 34. 


hooted and insulted by his guests, who would find a 
sympathising echo from all the people of tiie village. One 
may say that from the time of the new rice at the end of 
September to the end of the marriage feast or till March 
there is a continual coming and going of visitors. For 
a marriage feast forty handtas are prepared by the groom's 
father, and all the people of the village who can afford it 
supply one also. Each liandia gives about three gallons 
of rice-beer, so that in one day and a half, in a village of 
thirty houses, about 200 gallons of rice-beer are despatched. 
The Oraons are famous for their dances. They delight in 
spending the whole night from sunset till morning in this 
most exciting amusement, and in the dancing season they 
go from village to village. They get, as it were; intoxicated 
with the music, and there is never any slackening of the 
pace. On the contrary, the evolutions seem to increase till 
very early in the morning, and it sometimes happens that 
one of the dancers shoots off rapidly from the gyrating 
group, and speeds away like a spent top, and, whirlwind-like, 
disappears through paddy-fields and ditches till he falls 
entirely exhausted. Of course it is the devil who has taken 
possession of him. One can well imagine in what state the 
dancers are at the first crow of the cock, and when ' Laurore 
avec ses doigts de rose entr'ouvre les portes de I'orient,' she finds 
the girls straggling home one by one, dishevelled, trainaiit 
I'aile, too tired even to enjoy the company of the boys, who 
remain behind in small groups, still sounding their tom-toms 
at intervals as if sorry that the performance was so soon 
over. And, wonderful to say and incredible to witness, they 
will go straight to the stalls, yoke their bullocks, and work 
the whole morning with the same spirit and cheerfulness as 
if they had spent the whole night in refreshing sleep. At 
eleven o'clock they come home, eat their meal, and stretched 
out in the verandah sleep like logs until two, when poked 
and kicked about unmercifully by the people of the house, 
they reluctantly get up with heavy eyes and weary limbs to 
resume their work." 

The Oraons do not now admit outsiders into the tribe. 27. Social 
There is no offence for which a man is permanently put '^"'"' 
out of caste, but a woman living with any man other than an 


Oraon is so expelled. Temporary expulsion is awarded for 
the usual offences. The head of the c3.?,iQ panchdyat is called 
Panua, and when an offender is reinstated, the Panua first 
drinks water from his hand, and takes upon himself the burden 
of the erring one's transgression. For this he usually receives 
a fee of five rupees, and in some States the appointment is in 
the hands of the Raja, who exacts a fine of a hundred rupees 
or more from a new candidate. The Oraons eat almost all 
kinds of food, including pork, fowls and crocodiles, but abstain 
from beef. Their status is very low among the Hindus ; 
they are usually made to live in a separate corner of the 
village, and are sometimes not allowed to draw water from 
the village well. As already stated, the dress of the men 
consists only of a narrow wisp of cloth round the loins. 
Some of them say, like the Gonds, that they are descended 
from the subjects of Rawan, the demon king of Ceylon ; 
this ancestry having no doubt in the first instance been 
imputed to them by the Hindus. And they explain that 
when Hanuman in the shape of a giant monkey came to 
the assistance of Rama, their king Rawan tried to destroy 
Hanuman by taking all the loin-cloths of his subjects and 
tying them soaked in oil to the monkey's tail with a view 
to setting them on fire and burning him to death. The 
device was unsuccessful and Hanuman escaped, but since 
then the subjects of Rawan and their descendants have never 
had a sufficient allowance of cloth to cover them properly. 
28. Char- " The Oraons," Colonel Dalton says, " if not the most 

acter. virtuous, are the most cheerful of the human race. Their 

lot is not a particularly happy one. They submit to be 
told that they are especially created as a labouring class, 
and they have had this so often dinned into their ears that 
they believe and admit it. I believe they relish work if the 
taskmaster be not over -exacting. Oraons sentenced to 
imprisonment without labour, as sometimes happens, for 
offences against the excise laws, insist on joining the 
working gangs, and wherever employed, if kindly treated, 
they work as if they felt an interest in their task. In cold 
weather or hot, rain or sun, they go cheerfully about it, and 
after some nine or ten hours of toil (seasoned with a little 
play and chaff among themselves) they return blithely home 

II r.iiK 321 

in flower-decked groups holding each other by the hand or 
round the waist and singing." 

The Kurukh language, Dr. Grierson states, has no 139. Langn- 
written character, but the gospels have been printed in it ^^^' 
in the Devanagri type. The translation is due to the Rev. 
F. Halm, who has also published a Biblical history, a 
catechism and other small books in Kurukh. More than 
five-sixths of the Oraons are still returned as speaking their 
own language. 

Paik. — A small caste of the Uriya country formed from 
military service, the \.q.xvs\ pdik meaning ' a foot-soldier.' In 
1 90 1 the Paiks numbered 19,000 persons in the Kalahandi 
and Patna States and the Raipur District, but since the 
transfer of the Uriya States to Bengal less than 3000 remain 
in the Central Provinces. In Kalahandi, where the bulk of 
them reside, they are called Nalia Sipahis from the fact 
that they were formerly armed with iialis or matchlocks 
by the State. After the Khond rising of 1882 in 
Kalahandi these were confiscated and bows and arrows 
given in lieu of them. The Paiks say that they were the 
followers of two warriors, Kalmir and Jaimir, who conquered 
the Krdahandi and Jaipur States from the Khonds about 
a thousand years ago. There is no doubt that they formed 
the rough militia of the Uriya Rajas, a sort of rabble half 
military and half police, like the Khandaits. But the 
Khandaits were probably the leaders and officers, and, as 
a consequence, thougli originally only a mixed occupational 
group, have acquired a higher status than the Pfuks and in 
Orissa rank next to the Rajputs. The Paiks were the rank 
and file, mainly recruited from the forest tribes, and they are 
counted as a comparatively low caste, though to strangers 
they profess to be Rajputs. In Sambalpur it is said that 
Rajputs, Sudhs, Bhuiyas and Gonds are called Paiks. In 
Kalahandi they wear the sacred thread, being invested with 
it by a Brfdiman at the time of their marriage, and they 
say that this privilege was conferred on them by the 
Raja. It is reported, however, that social distinctions may 
be purchased in some of the Uriya States for comparatively 
small sums. A Bhatra or member of a forest tribe was 

VOL. IV y 



observed wearing the sacred thread, and, on being ques- 
tioned, stated that his grandfather had purchased the right 
from the Raja for Rs. 50. The privileges of wearing 
gold ear ornaments, carrying an umbrella, and riding on 
horseback were obtainable in a similar manner. It is also 
related that when one Raja imported the first pair of boots 
seen in his State, the local landholders were allowed to 
wear them in turn for a few minutes on payment of five 
rupees each, as a token of their right thereafter to procure 
and wear boots of their own. In Damoh and Jubbuipore 
another set of Paiks is to be found who also claim to be 
Rajputs, and are commonly so called, though true Rajputs 
will not eat or intermarry with them. These are quite 
distinct from the Sambalpur Paiks, but have probably been 
formed into a caste in exactly the same manner. The sept 
or family names of the Uriya Paiks sufficiently indicate 
their mixed descent. Some of them are as follows : Dube 
(a Brahman title), Chalak Bansi (of the Chalukya royal family), 
Chhit Karan (belonging to the Karans or Uriya Kayasths), 
Sahani (a sais or groom), Sudh (the name of an Uriya caste), 
Benet Uriya (a subdivision of the Uriya or Od mason caste), 
and so on. It is clear that members of different castes who 
became Paiks founded separate families, which in time 
developed into exogamous septs. Some of the septs will 
not eat food cooked with water in company with the rest of 
the caste, though they do not object to intermarrying with 
them. After her marriage a girl may not take food cooked 
by her parents nor will they accept it from her. And at 
a marriage party each guest is supplied with grain and 
cooks it himself, but everybody will eat with the bride 
and bridegroom as a special concession to their position. 
Besides the exogamous clans the Paiks have totemistic gots 
or groups named after plants and animals, as Harin (a deer), 
Kadamb (a tree), and so on. But these have no bearing on 
marriage, and the bulk of the caste have the Nagesh or cobra 
as their sept name. It is said that anybody who does not 
know his sept considers himself to be a Nagesh, and if he 
does not know his clan, he calls himself a Mahanti. Each 
family among the Paiks has also a Sainga or title, of a high- 
sounding nature, as Naik (lord), Pujari (worshipper), Baidya 

II PA IK 323 

(physician), Rant (noble), and so on. Marriages are gener- 
ally celebrated in early youth, but no penalty is incurred for 
a breach of this rule. If the signs of adolescence appear 
in a girl for the first time on a Tuesday, Saturday or Sunday, 
it is considered a bad omen, and she is sometimes married 
to a tree to avert the consequences. Widow-marriage and 
divorce are freely permitted. The caste burn their dead 
and perform the sliraddh ceremony. The women are 
tattooed, and men sometimes tattoo their arms with figures 
of the sun and moon in the belief that this will protect 
them from snake-bite. The Paiks eat flesh and fish, but 
abstain from fowls and other unclean animals and from 
liquor. Brahmans will not take water from them, but other 
castes generally do so. Some of them are still employed 
as armed retainers and are remunerated by free grants of 




1 . Origin of the caste. 4. Marriage. 

2. Caste subdivisiotis. 5. Religion. 

3. Endoganioiis divisions. 6. Other ciistoiiis. 
7. Occupation. 

Oricrin Panka.^ — A Dravidian caste of weavers and labourers 

of the found in Mandla, Raipur and Bilaspur, and numbering 
215,000 persons in 191 1. The name is a variant on that of 
the Pan tribe of Orissa and Chota Nagpur, who are also known 
as Panika.ChIk, Ganda and by various other designations. In 
the Central Provinces it has, however, a peculiar application ; 
for while the Pan tribe proper is called Ganda in Chhat- 
tlsgarh and the Uriya country, the Pankas form a separate 
division of the Gandas, consisting of those who have become 
members of the Kablrpanthi sect. In this way the name has 
been found very convenient, for since Kablr, the founder of 
the sect, was discovered by a weaver woman lying on the 
lotus leaves of a tank, like Moses in the bulrushes, and as a 
newly initiated convert is purified with water, so the Pankas 
hold that their name is pdni ka or ' from water.' As far as 
possible then they disown their connection with the Gandas, 
one of the most despised castes, and say that they are 
a separate caste consisting of the disciples of Kablr. 
This has given rise to the following doggerel rhyme about 

them : 

Pdni se Patika bhae, bundan rdche sharir, 
Age age Panka bhae., pdchhe Das Kablr. 

Which may be rendered, ' The Panka indeed is born of 

1 This article is compiled from phic clerk, and Hazari I^al, Manager, 
papers by Pyarc Lai Misra, Ethnogra- Court of Wards, Chanda. 



water, and his body is made of drops of water, but there 
were Pankas before Kablr.' Or another rendering of the 
second Hue is, ' First he was a Panka, and afterwards he 
became a disciple of Kablr.' Nevertheless the Pankas have 
been successful in obtaining a somewhat higher position than 
the Gfindas, in that their touch is not considered to convey 
impurity. This is therefore an instance of a body of persons 
from a low caste embracing a new religion and thereby form- 
ing themselves into a separate caste and obtaining an 
advance in social position. 

Of the whole caste 84 per cent are Kablrpanthis and 2. Caste 
these form one subcaste ; but there are a few others. The ^V^.'. 

' divisions. 

Manikpuria say that their ancestors came from Manikpur 
in Darbhanga State about three centuries ago ; the Saktaha 
are those who profess to belong to the Sakta sect, which 
simply means that they eat flesh and drink liquor, being 
unwilling to submit to the restrictions imposed on Kablr- 
panthis ; the Bajania are those who play on musical 
instruments, an occupation which tends to lower them 
in Hindu eyes ; and the Dom Pankas are probably a 
section of the Dom or sweeper caste who have somehow 
managed to become Pankas. The main distinction is how- 
ever between the Kabirha, who have abjured flesh and liquor, 
and the Saktaha, who indulge in them ; and the Saktaha 
group is naturally recruited from backsliding Kablrpanthis. 
Properly the Kabirha and Saktaha do not intermarry, but 
if a girl from either section goes to a man of the other she 
will be admitted into the community and recognised as his 
wife, though the regular ceremony is not performed. The 
Saktaha worship all the ordinary village deities, but some 
of the Kabirha at any rate entirely refrain from doing so, 
and have no religious rites except when a priest of their 
sect comes round, when he gives them a discourse and they 
sing religious songs. 

The caste have a number of exogamous septs, many of 3. Endo- 
which are named after plants and animals : as Tandia an |j\']^°o^s 
earthen pot, Chhura a razor, Neora the mongoose, Parewa 
the wild pigeon, and others. Other septs are Panaria the 
bringer of betel-leaf, Kuldlp the lamp-lighter, Pandwar the 
washer of feet, Ghughua one who eats the leavings of the 


assembly, and Khetgarhia, one who watches the fields during 
religious worship. The Sonwania or ' Gold-water ' sept has 
among the Pankas, as with several of the primitive tribes, 
the duty of readmitting persons temporarily put out of 
caste ; while the Naurang or nine -coloured sept may be 
the offspring of some illegitimate unions. The Sati sept 
apparently commemorate by their name an ancestress who 
distinguished herself by self-immolation, naturally a very 
rare occurrence in so low a caste as the Pankas. Each 
sept has its own Bhat or genealogist who begs only from 
members of the sept and takes food from them. 
4. Mar- Marriage is prohibited between members of the same 

"^^^' sept and also between first cousins, and a second sister may 
not be married during the lifetime of the first. Girls are 
usually wedded under twelve years of age. In Mandla the 
father of the boy and his relatives go to discuss the match, 
and if this is arranged each of them kisses the girl and 
gives her a piece of small silver. When a Saktaha is going 
to look for a wife he makes a fire offering to Dulha Deo, 
the young bridegroom god, whose shrine is in the cook- 
room, and prays to him saying, ' I am going to such and 
such a village to ask for a wife ; give me good fortune,' 
The father of the girl at first refuses his consent as a matter 
of etiquette, but finally agrees to let the marriage take place 
within a year. The boy pays Rs. 9, which is spent on the 
feast, and makes a present of clothes and jewels to the bride. 
In Chanda a chauka or consecrated space spread with cow- 
dung with a pattern of lines of flour is prepared and the 
fathers of the parties stand inside this, while a member of 
the Pandwar sept cries out the names of the gotras of the 
bride and bridegroom and says that the everlasting knot is 
to be tied between them with the consent of five caste- 
people and the sun and moon as witnesses. Before the 
wedding the betrothed couple worship Mahadeo and Parvati 
under the direction of a Brfdiman, who also fixes the date 
of the wedding. This is the only purpose for which a 
Brfdiman is employed by the caste. Between this date and 
that of the marriage neither the boy nor girl should be 
allowed to go to a tank or cross a river, as it is considered 
dangerous to their lives. The superstition has apparently 


some connection with the beHef that the Pankas are sprung 
from water, but its exact meaning cannot be cletcrmincd. 
If a girl goes wrong before marriage with a man of the 
caste, she is given to him to wife without any ceremony. 
Before the marriage seven small pitchers full of water are 
placed in a bamboo basket and shaken over the bride's head 
so that the water may fall on her. The principal ceremony 
consists in walking round the sacred pole called DiagroJian, 
the skirts of the pair being knotted together. In some 
localities this is done twice, a first set of perambulations 
being called the Kunwari (maiden) Bhanwar, and the second 
one of seven, the Byahi (married) Bhanwar. After the 
wedding the bride and her relations return with the bride- 
groom to his house, their party being known as Chauthia. 
The couple are taken to a river and throw their tinsel 
wedding ornaments into the water. The bride then returns 
home if she is a minor, and when she subsequently goes to 
live with her husband the gauna ceremony is performed. 
Widow-marriage is permitted, and divorce may be effected 
for bad conduct on the part of the wife, the husband giving 
a sort of funeral feast, called Marti jiti ka bhdt, to the caste- 
fellows. Usually a man gives several warnings to his wife 
to amend her bad conduct before he finally casts her off. 

The Pankas worship only Kablr. They prepare a 5. Reii- 
chauka and, sitting in it, sing songs in his praise, and a ^'°"' 
cocoanut is afterwards broken and distributed to those who 
are present. The assembly is presided over by a Mahant 
or priest and the chaiika is prepared by his subordinate 
called the Diwan. The offices of Mahant and Dlwan are 
hereditai')^, and they officiate for a collection of ten or fifteen 
villages. Otherwise the caste perform no special worship, 
but observe the full moon days of Magh (January), Phagun 
(February) and Kartik (October) as fasts in honour of 
Kablr. Some of the Kabirhas observe the Hindu festivals, 
and the Saktahas, as already stated, have the same religious 
practices as other Hindus. Thc)' admit into the community 
members of most castes except the impure ones. In Chhat- 
tlsgarh a new convert is shaved and the other Pankas wash 
their feet over him in order to purify him. Pie then breaks 
a stick in token of having given up his former caste and is 


invested with a necklace of tulsi^ beads. A woman of any 
such caste who has gone wrong with a man of the Panka 
caste may be admitted after she has Hved with him for a 
certain period on probation, during which her conduct must 
be satisfactory, her paramour also being put out of caste for 
the same time. Both are then shaved and invested with 
the necklaces of tulsi beads. In Mandla a new convert 
must clean and whitewash his house and then vacate it with 
his family while the Panch or caste committee come and 
stay there for some time in order to purify it. While they 
are there neither the owner nor any member of his family 
may enter the house. The Panch then proceed to the river- 
side and cook food, after driving the new convert across the 
river by pelting him with cowdung. Here he changes his 
clothes and puts on new ones, and coming back again across 
the stream is made to stand in the chauk and sip the urine 
of a calf. The chauk is then washed out and a fresh one 
made with lines of flour, and standing in this the convert 
receives to drink the dal^ that is, water in which a little 
betel, raw sugar and black pepper have been mixed and a 
piece of gold dipped. In the evening the Panch again take 
their food in the convert's house, while hg eats outside it at 
a distance. Then he again sips the dal, and the Mahant or 
priest takes him on his lap and a cloth is put over them 
both ;, the Mahant whispers the mantra or sacred verse into 
his ear, and he is finally considered to have become a full 
Kabirha Panka and admitted to eat with the Panch. 
6. Other The Paukas are strict vegetarians and do not drink 

liquor. A Kabirha Panka is put out of caste for eating 
flesh meat. Both men and women generally wear white 
clothes, and men have the garland of beads round the neck. 
The dead are buried, being laid on the back with the head 
pointing to the north. After a funeral the mourners bathe 
and then break a cocoanut over the grave and distribute it 
among themselves. On the tenth day they go again and 
break a cocoanut and each man buries a little piece of it in 
the earth over the grave, A little cup made of flour con- 
taining a lamp is placed on the grave for three days after- 
wards, and some food and water are put in a leaf cup outside 

' The basil plant. 


II occur A TION 329 

the house for the same period. Durinj^ these days the 
family do not cook for themselves but are supplied with 
food by their friends. After childbirth a mother is sui)posed 
not to eat food during the time that the midwife attends on 
her, on account of the impurity caused by this woman's 
presence in the room. 

The caste are generally weavers, producing coarse 7. Occu- 
country cloth, and a number of them serve as village watch- 5^^"''"- 
men, while others are cultivators and labourers. They will 
not grow jrtw-hemp nor breed tasar silk cocoons. They are 
somewhat poorly esteemed by their neighbours, who say of 
them, ' Where a Panka can get a little boiled rice and a 
pumpkin, he will stay for ever,' meaning that he is satisfied 
with this and will not work to get more. Another saying 
is, ' The Panka felt brave and thought he would go to war ; 
but he set out to fight a frog and was beaten ' ; and another, 
' Every man tells one lie a day ; but the Ahir tells sixteen, 
the Chamar twenty, and the lies of the Panka cannot be 
counted.' Such gibes, however, do not really mean much. 
Owing to the abstinence of the Pankas from flesh and liquor 
they rank above the Gandas and other impure castes. In 
Bilaspur they are generally held to be quiet and industrious.^ 
In Chhattlsgarh the Pankas are considered above the 
average in intelligence and sometimes act as spokesmen for 
the village people and as advisers to zamlndfus and village 
proprietors. Some of them become religious mendicants 
and act as gurus or preceptors to Kablrpanthis." 

' Bilaspur Settle7nent Report {i%(i2))f ^ From anole by Mr. Gauri Shankar, 

p. 49. Manager, Court of Wards, Drug. 



r. Historical notice. The Agiii- 
ktila clafis and the slaughter 
of the Kshatriyas by Para- 

2. The legend of Parasierdaia. 

3. 77^1? Panwdr dytiasty of Dhdr 

and Ujjaiti. 

4. Diffusioji of the Panwdrs over 



1 1. 

The Ndgpur Pajtwdrs. 
Marriage customs. 
Worship of the spirits of those 

dying a violent death. 
Funeral rites. 
Caste discipline. 


Social customs. 

I. Histori- 
cal notice. 

clans and 

of the 
by Parasu- 

Panwap/ Puar, Ponwar, Pramara Rajput. — The 

Panwar or Pramara is one of the most ancient and famous 
of the Rajput clans. It was the first of the four Agnikulas, 
who were created from the fire-pit on the summit of Mount 
Abu after the Kshatriyas had been exterminated by 
Parasiirama the Brahman. " The fire-fountain was kistrated 
with the waters of the Ganges ; " expiatory rites were per- 
formed, and after a protracted debate among the gods it was 
resolved that Indra should initiate the work of recreation. 
Having formed an image of dfiba grass he sprinkled it with 
the water of life and threw it into the fire-fountain. Thence 
on pronouncing the sajivaii vmntr-a (incantation to give 
life) a figure slowly emerged from the flame, bearing in the 
right hand a mace and exclaiming, ' Mm\ Mar ! ' (Slay, 
slay). He was called Pramar ; and Abu, Dhar and Ujjain 
were assigned to him as a territory." 

The four clans known as Agnikula, or born from 
the fire-pit, were the Panwar, the Chauhan, the Parihar and 

* With the exception of the historical reader to Mr. C. E. Low, Deputy 
notice, this article is principally based Commissioner of Balaghat. 
on a paper by Mr. Muhammad Yusuf, - Tod's RdjasthCin, ii. p. 407. 



the Chalukya or Solanki. Mr. D. R. lihandarkar adduces 
evidence in support of the opinion that all these were of 
foreign origin, derived from the Gujars or other Scythian or 
Hun tribes.^ And it seems therefore not unlikely that the 
legend of the fire-pit may commemorate the reconstitution of 
the Kshatriya aristocracy by the admission of these tribes to 
Hinduism after its partial extinction during their wars of 
invasion ; the latter event having perhaps been euphemised 
into the slaughter of the Kshatriyas by Parasurama the 
Brahman. A great number of Indian castes date their 
origin from the traditional massacre of the Kshatriyas by 
Parasurama, saying that their ancestors were Rajputs who 
escaped and took to various occupations ; and it would appear 
that an event which bulks so largely in popular tradition 
must have some historical basis. It is noticeable also that 
Buddhism, which for some five centuries since the time of 
Asoka Maurya had been the official and principal religion of 
northern India, had recently entered on its decline. " The 
restoration of the Brahmanical religion to popular favour and 
the associated revival of the Sanskrit language first became 
noticeable in the second century, were fostered by the satraps 
of Gujarat and Surashtra during the third, and made a 
success by the Gupta emperors in the fourth century." The 
decline of Buddhism and the diffusion of Sanskrit proceeded 
side by side with the result that by the end of the Gupta 
period the force of I^uddhism on Indian soil had been nearly 
spent ; and India with certain local exceptions had again 
become the land of the Brahman.^ The Gupta dynasty as 
an important power ended about A.D. 490 and was over- 
thrown by the Huns, whose leader Toramana was established 
at Malvva in Central India prior to A.l). 500."'* The revival 
of Brahmanism and the Hun supremacy were therefore 
nearly contemporaneous. Moreover one of the Hun leaders, 
Mihiragula, was a strong supporter of Brahmanism and 
an opponent of the Buddhists. Mr. V. A. Smith writes : 
" The savage invader, who worshipped as his patron deity 
Siva, the god of destruction, exhibited ferocious hostility 

^ Foreign elements in the Hindu Clarendon Press), 3rd ed., p. 303. 

population, /«</. ^;/^. (January 1911), , „., , , 00 

ypj J.] \. y ^ / 3 jij^d^jii^ 2nd ed., p. 2SS. 

2 Early History of India (Oxford, * Ibidem^ p. 316. 



2. The 
legend of 

against the peaceful Buddhist cult, and remorselessly over- 
threw the stfipas and monasteries, which he plundered of 
their treasures." ^ This warrior might therefore well be 
venerated by the Brahmans as the great restorer of their faith 
and would easily obtain divine honours. The Huns also 
subdued Rajputana and Central India and were dominant here 
for a time until their extreme cruelty and oppression led to a 
concerted rising of the Indian princes by whom they were 
defeated. The discovery of the Hun or Scythian origin of 
several of the existing Rajput clans fits in well with the legend. 
The stories told by many Indian castes of their first ancestors 
having been Rajputs who escaped from the massacre of 
Parasurama would then have some historical value as indicat- 
ing that the existing occupational grouping of castes dates 
from the period of the revival of the Brahman cult after a 
long interval of Buddhist supremacy. It is however an objec- 
tion to the identification of Parasurama with the Huns that 
he is the sixth incarnation of "Vishnu, coming before Rama 
and being mentioned in the Mahabharata, and thus if he was 
in any way historical his proper date should be long before 
their time. As to this it may be said that he might have been 
interpolated or put back in date, as the Brahmans had a strong 
interest in demonstrating the continuity of the Kshatriya caste 
from Vedic times and suppressing the Hun episode, which 
indeed they have succeeded in doing so well that the foreign 
origin of several of the most prominent Rajput clans has 
only been established quite recently by modern historical 
and archaeological research. The name Parasurama signifies 
* Rama with the axe ' and seems to indicate that this hero 
came after the original Rama. And the list of the incarna- 
tions of Vishnu is not always the same, as in one list the 
incarnations are nearly all of the animal type and neither 
Parasurama, Rama nor Krishna appear. 

The legend of Parasurama is not altogether opposed 
to this view in itself.' He was the son of a Brahman Muni 
or hermit, named Jamadagni, by a lady, Renuka, of the 
Kshatriya caste. He is therefore not held to have been a 
Brahman and neither was he a true Kshatriya. This might 

' Early History of India (Oxford, 2 Garrett's Classical Dictionary' of 

Clarendon Press), 3rd ed., p. 319. Hinduism, s.v. Jamadagni and Rama. 


portray the foreign origin of the Ilun.s. Jamadagni found his 
wife Renuka to be harbouring thoughts of conjugal infidelity, 
and commanded his sons, one by one, to slay her. The four 
elder ones successively refused, and being cursed by Jamadagni 
lost all understanding and became as idiots ; but the youngest, 
Parasurama, at his father's bidding, struck off his mother's 
head with a blow of his axe. Jamadagni thereupon was 
very pleased and promised to give Parasurama whatever he 
might desire. On which Parasurama begged first for the 
restoration of his mother to life, with forgetfulness of his 
having slain her and purification from all defilement ; secondly, 
the return of his brothers to sanity and understanding ; and 
for himself that he should live long and be invincible in battle ; 
and all these boons his father bestowed. Here the hermit 
Jamadagni might represent the Brahman priesthood, and his 
wife Renuka might be India, unfaithful to the Brahmans and 
turning towards the Buddhist heresy. The four elder sons 
would typify the princes of India refusing to respond to the 
exhortations of the Brahmans for the suppression of Bud- 
dhism, and hence themselves made blind to the true faith 
and their understandings darkened with Buddhist falsehood. 
But Parasurama, the youngest, killed his mother, that is, the 
Huns devastated India and slaughtered the Buddhists ; in 
reward for this he was made invincible as the Huns were, and 
his mother, India, and his brothers, the indigenous princes, 
regained life and understanding, that is, returned to the true 
Brahman faith. Afterwards, the legend proceeds, the king 
Karrtavlrya, the head of the Haihaya tribe of Kshatriyas, stole 
the calf of the sacred cow Kamdhenu from Jamadagni's 
hermitage and cut down the trees surrounding it. When 
Parasurama returned, his father told him what had happened, 
and he followed Karrtavlrya and killed him in battle. But in 
revenge for this the sons of the king, when Parasurama 
was away, returned to the hermitage and slew the pious 
and unresisting sage Jamadagni, who called fruitlessly for 
succour on his valiant son. When Parasurama returned 
and found his father dead he vowed to extirpate the whole 
Kshatriya race. ' Thrice times seven did he clear the earth 
of the Kshatriya caste,' says the Mahabharata. If the first 
part of the story refers to the Hun conquest of northern 



3- The 
dynasty of 
Dhar and 

India and the overthrow of the Gupta dynasty, the second 
may similarly portray their invasion of Rajputana. The 
theft of the cow and desecration of Jamadagni's hermitage 
by the Haihaya Rajputs would represent the apostasy of the 
RajpiJt princes to Buddhist monotheism, the consequent 
abandonment of the veneration of the cow and the spoliation 
of the Brahman shrines ; while the Hun invasions of Raj- 
putana and the accompanying slaughter of Rajputs would 
be Parasurama's terrible revenge. 

The Kings of Malwa or Ujjain who reigned at Dhar 
and flourished from the ninth to the twelfth centuries were 
of the Panwar clan. The seventh and ninth kings of this 
dynasty rendered it famous.^ " Raja Munja, the seventh 
king (974-995), renowned for his learning and eloquence, 
was not only a patron of poets, but was himself a poet of 
no small reputation, the anthologies including various works 
from his pen. He penetrated in a career of conquest as 
far as the Godavari, but was finally defeated and executed 
there by the Chalukya king. His nephew, the famous 
Bhoja, ascended the throne of Dhara about A.D. 10 18 and 
reigned gloriously for more than forty years. Like his 
uncle he cultivated with equal assiduity the arts of peace 
and war. Though his fights with neighbouring powers, 
including one of the Muhammadan armies of Mahmud ot 
Ghaznl, are now forgotten, his fame as an enlightened patron 
of learning and a skilled author remains undimmed, and 
his name has become proverbial as that of the model king 
according to the Hindu standard. Works on astronomy, 
architecture, the art of poetry and other subjects are attri- 
buted to him. About A.D. 1060 Bhoja was attacked and 
defeated by the confederate kings of Gujarat and Chedi, 
and the Panwar kingdom was reduced to a petty local 
dynasty until the thirteenth century. It was finally super- 
seded by the chiefs of the Tomara and Chauhan clans, who 
in their turn succumbed to the Muhammadans in 1401." 
The city of Ujjain was at this time a centre of Indian 
intellectual life. Some celebrated astronomers made it 

1 The following; extract is taken 
from Mr. V. A. Smith's Early History 
0/ India, 3rd ed., pp. 395, 396. The 

passage has been somewhat abridged 
in reproduction. 


their home, and it was adopted as the basis of the Hindu 
ineridional system like Greenwich in England. The capital 
of the state was changed from Ujjain to Dhar or Dharanao-ra 
by the Raja Bhoja already mentioned;^ and the name of 
Dhar is better remembered in connection with the Panwars 
than Ujjain. 

A saying about it quoted by Colonel Tod was : 

Jalian PuCir ialian Dhar hai; 
Aur Dhar jaJidn Ptidr; 
Dhar bma Picar 7iahinj 
Aur fiahin Piidr bina Dhar : 

or, " Where the Panwar is there is Dhar, and Dhar is where 
the Panwar is ; without the Panwars Dhar cannot stand, 
nor the Panwars without Dhar." It is related that in 
consequence of one of his merchants having been held to 
ransom by the ruler of Dhar, the Bhatti Raja of Jaisalmcr 
made a vow to subdue the town. But as he found the 
undertaking too great for him, in order to fulfil his vow he 
had a model of the city made in clay and was about to 
break it up. But there were Panwars in his army, and 
they stood out to defend their mock capital, repeating as 
their reason the above lines ; and in resisting the Raja 
were cut to pieces to the number of a hundred and twenty.^ 
There is little reason to doubt that the incident, if historical, 
was produced by the belief in sympathetic magic ; the 
Panwars really thought that by destroying its image the 
Raja could effect injury to the capital itself,^ just as many 
primitive races believe that if they make a doll as a model 
of an enemy and stick pins into or otherwise injure it, the 
man himself is similarly affected. A kindred belief prevails 
concerning certain mythical old kings of the Golden Age of 
India, of whom it is said that to destroy their opponents all 
they had to do was to collect a bundle of juari stalks and 

1 Malcolm, i. p. 26. his capital, on pledging his parole that 

2 Rajasthan, ii. p. 215. he would go back to Madrid. But the 

delights of liberty and Pans were too 

3 A similar instance in Europe is much for honour ; and while he 
related by Colonel Tod, concerning wavered a hint was thrown out similar 
the origin of the Madrid Restaurant in to tliat of destroying the clay city. A 
the Bois de Boulogne at Paris. After mock Madrid arose in the Bois de 
Francis I. had been captured by the Boulogne, to which Francis retired. 
Spaniards he was allowed to return to (Riijasthiin, ii. p. 428.) 


cut off the heads, when the heads of their enemies flew off 
in unison. 

The Panwars were held to have ruled from nine castles 
over the Marusthali or ' Region of death,' the name given 
to the great desert of Rajputana, which extends from Sind 
to the Aravalli mountains and from the great salt lake to 
the flat skirting the Garah. The principal of these castles 
were Abu, Nundore, Umarkot, Arore, and Lodorva.^ And, 
' The world is the Pramara's,' was another saying expressive 
of the resplendent position of Dharanagra or Ujjain at this 
epoch. The siege and capture of the town by the Muham- 
madans and consequent expulsion of the Panwars are still 
a well -remembered tradition, and certain castes of the 
Central Provinces, as the Bhoyars and Korkus, say that 
their ancestors formed part of the garrison and fled to the 
Satpura hills after the fall of Dharanagra. Mr. Crooke ^ 
states that the expulsion of the Panwars from Ujjain 
under their leader Mitra Sen is ascribed to the attack of 
the Muhammadans under Shahab-ud-din Ghori about 
A.D. I 190. 
4. Dif. After this they spread to various places in northern 

fusion of India, and to the Central Provinces and Bombay. The 

the Pan- -r^, _ . , -n 1 1 1 1 

wars over modern state of Dhar is or was recently still held by a 
India. Panwar family, who had attained high rank under the 

Marathas and received it as a grant from the Peshwa. 
Malcolm considered them to be the descendants of Rajput 
emigrants to the Deccan. He wrote of them : ^ "In the 
early period of Maratha history the family of Puar appears 
to have been one of the most distinguished. They were 
of the Rajput tribe, numbers of which had been settled 
in Malvva at a remote era ; from whence this branch had 
migrated to the Deccan. Sivaji Puar, the first of the 
family that can be traced in the latter country, was a 
landholder ; and his grandsons, Sambaji and Kaloji, were 
military commanders in the service of the celebrated Sivaji. 
Anand Rao Puar was vested with authority to collect the 
Maratha share of the revenue of Mahva and Gujarat in 
1734, and he soon afterwards settled at Dhar, which province, 

' Rajasthdn, ii. pp. 264, 265. - Tribes and Castes, art. Panwar. 

•' Memoir 0/ Central India, \. 96. 


with the adjoining districts and the tributes of some neigh- 
bouring Rajput chiefs, was assigned for the support of him- 
self and his adherents. It is a curious coincidence that the 
success of the Marathas should, by making Dhar tiie capital 
of Anand Rao and his descendants, restore the sovereignty 
of a race who had seven centuries before been expelled from 
the government of that city and territory. But the present 
family, though of the same tribe (Puar), claim no descent 
from the ancient Hindu princes of Malwa. They have, 
like all the Kshatriya tribes who became incorporated with 
the Marathas, adopted even in their modes of thinking the 
habits of that people. The heads of the family, with 
feelings more suited to chiefs of that nation than Rajput 
princes, have purchased the office of patel or headman in 
some villages in the Ueccan ; and their descendants continue 
to attach value to their ancient, though humble, right! of 
village officers in that quarter. Notwithstanding that these 
usages and the connections they formed have amalgamated 
this family with the Marathas, they still claim, both on 
account of their high birth and of being officers of the 
Raja of Satara (not of the Peshwa), rank and precedence 
over the houses of Sindhia and Holkar ; and these claims, 
even when their fortunes were at the lowest ebb, were always 
admitted as far as related to points of form and ceremony." 
The great Maratha house of Nimbhalkar is believed to 
have originated from ancestors of the Panwar Rajput clan. 
While one branch of the Panwars went to the Dcccan after 
the fall of Dhar and marrying with the people there became 
a leading military family of the Marathas, the destiny of 
another group who migrated to northern India was less 
distinguished. Here they split into two, and the inferior 
section is described by Mr. Crooke as follows : ^ " The 
Khidmatia, Barwar or Chobdar are said to be an inferior 
branch of the Panwars, descended from a low-caste woman. 
No high-caste Hindu eats food or drinks water touched by 
them." According to the Ain-i-Akbari " a thousand men 
of the sept guarded the environs of the palace of Akbar, 
and Abul Fazl says of them : " The caste to which they 

' Tribes and Castes, art. Panwar. 
2 Blockmann, i. 252, quoted by Crooke. 


belong was notorious for highway robbery, and former 
rulers were not able to keep them in check. The effective 
orders of His Majesty have led them to honesty; they are 
now famous for their trustworthiness. They were formerly 
called Mdwis. Their chief has received the title of Khidmat 
Rao. Being near the person of His Majesty he lives in 
affluence. His men are called Khidmatias." Thus another 
body of Panwars went north and sold their swords to the 
Mughal Emperor, who formed them into a bodyguard. 
Their case is exactly analogous to that of the Scotch and 
Swiss Guards of the French kings. In both cases the 
monarch preferred to entrust the care of his person to 
foreigners, on whose fidelity he could the better rely, as 
their only means of support and advancement lay in his 
personal favour, and they had no local sympathies which 
could be used as a lever to undermine their loyalty. 
Buchanan states that a Panwar dynasty ruled for a con- 
siderable period over the territory of Shahabad in Bengal. 
And Jagdeo Panwar was the trusted minister of Sidhraj, 
the great Solanki Raja of Gujarat. The story of the 
adventures of Jagdeo and his wife when they set out 
together to seek their fortune is an interesting episode in 
the Rasmala. In the Punjab the Panwars are found settled 
up the whole course of the Sutlej and along the lower 
Indus, and have also spread up the Bias into Jalandhar 
and Gurdaspur.^ 
5. The While the above extracts have been given to show how 

Panwars. the Panwars migrated from Dhar to different parts of India 
in search of fortune, this article is mainly concerned with a 
branch of the clan who came to Nagpur, and subsequently 
settled in the rice country of the Wainganga Valley. At 
the end of the eleventh century Nagpur appears to have 
been held by a Panwar ruler as an appanage of the kingdom 
of Malwa."^ It has already been seen how the kings of Malwa 
penetrated to Berar and the Godavari, and Nagpur may well 
also have fallen to them. Mr. Muhammad Yusuf quotes an 
inscription as existing at Bhandak in Chanda of the year 
A.D. 1326, in which it is mentioned that the Panwar of Dhar 

' Il)ljctson, ]'. C. R., para. 448. in a slone inscription dated A. D. 1104- 

'^ His name, Lakshma Dcva, is given 1105. 


repaired a statue of Jag Narayan in that place.^ Nothing 
more is heard of them in Nagpur, and their rule probably 
came to an end with the subversion of the kingdom of Miihva 
in the thirteenth century. But there remain in Nagpur and 
in the districts of Bhandara, Brdfighat and Seoni to the north 
and east of it a large number of Panvvars, who have now 
developed into an agricultural caste. It may be surmised 
that the ancestors of these people settled in the country at 
the time when Nagpur was held by their clan, and a second 
influx may have taken place after the fall of Dhar. Accord- 
ing to their own account, they first came to Nagardhan, an 
older town than Nagpur, and once the headquarters of the 
locality. One of their legends is that the men who first came 
had no wives, and were therefore allowed to take widows of 
other castes into their houses. It seems reasonable to 
suppose that something of this kind happened, though they 
probably did not restrict themselves to widows. The exist- 
ing family names of the caste show that it is of mixed 
ancestry, but the original Rajput strain is still perfectly 
apparent in their fair complexions, high foreheads and in 
many cases grey eyes. The Panwars have still the habit of 
keeping women of lower castes to a greater degree than the 
ordinary, and this has been found to be a trait of other castes 
of mixed origin, and they are sometimes known as Dhakar, 
a name having the sense of illegitimacy. Though they have 
lived for centuries among a Marathi- speaking people, the 
Panwars retain a dialect of their own, the basis of which is 
Bagheli or eastern Hindi. When the Marathas established 
themselves at Nagpur in the eighteenth century some of the 
Panwars took military service under them and accompanied 
a general of the Bhonsla ruling family on an expedition to 
Cuttack. In return for this they were rewarded with grants 
of the waste and forest lands in the valley of the Wainganga 
river, and here they developed great skill in the construction 

^ The inscription is said to be in one ruler of Dhar, was the third repairer of 

of the temples in Winj Basini, near the statue. The image was carved by 

Bhandak, in the Devanagri character Gopinath Pandit, inhabitant of Lonar 

in Marathi, and to run as follows: Mehkar. Let this shrine be the pride 

"Consecration of Jagnarilyan (the ser- of all the citizens, and let this religious 

pent of the world). Daji'anashnaku, act be notified to the chief and other 

the son of Chogneka, he it was who officers." 
consecrated the god. The Panwar, the 



6. Sub- 

7. Mar- 

of tanks and the irrigation of rice land, and are the best 
agricultural caste in this part of the country. Their customs 
have many points of interest, and, as is natural, they have 
abandoned many of the caste observances of the Rajputs. It 
is to this group of Panwars ^ settled in the Maratha rice 
country of the VVainganga Valley that the remainder of this 
article is devoted. 

They number about 150,000 persons, and include many 
village proprietors and substantial cultivators. The quota- 
tions already given have shown how this virile clan of Rajputs 
travelled to the north, south and east from their own country 
in search of a livelihood. Everywhere they made their mark 
so that they live in history, but they paid no regard to the 
purity of their Rajput blood and took to themselves wives 
from the women of the country as they could get them. The 
Panwars of the Wainganga Valley have developed into a 
caste marrying among themselves. They have no subcastes 
but thirty-six exogamous sections. Some of these have the 
names of Rajput clans, while others are derived from villages, 
titles or names of offices, or from other castes. Among the 
titular names are Chaudhri (headman), Patlia (patel or chief 
officer of a village) and Sonwania (one who purifies offenders 
among the Gonds and other tribes). Among the names of 
other castes are Bopcha or Korku, Bhoyar (a caste of culti- 
vators), Pardhi (hunter), Kohli (a local cultivating caste) and 
Sahria (from the Saonr tribe). These names indicate how 
freely they have intermarried. It is noticeable that the 
Bhoyars and Korkus of Betul both say that their ancestors 
were Panwars of Dhar, and the occurrence of both names 
among the Panwars of Balaghat may indicate that these 
castes also have some Panwar blood. Three names, Rahmat 
(kind), Turukh or Turk, and Farld (a well-known saint), are 
of Muhammadan origin, and indicate intermarriage in that 

Girls are usually, but not necessarily, wedded before 
adolescence. Occasionally a Panwar boy who cannot afford 
a regular marriage will enter his prospective father-in-law's 

' A few Panwar Rajputs are found 
in the Saugor iJislrict, but they are 
quite distinct from those of the Marallia 

country, and marry with the Bundelas. 
They are mentioned in the article on 
tliat clan. 



house and serve him for a year or more, when he will obtain 
a daughter in marriage. And sometimes a girl will contract 
a liking for some man or boy of the caste and will go to his 
house, leaving her home. In such cases the parents accept 
the accomplished fact, and the couple are married. If the 
boy's parents refuse their consent they are temporarily put 
out of caste, and subsequently the neighbours will not pay 
them the customary visits on the occasions of family joys 
and griefs. Even if a girl has lived with a man of another 
caste, as long as she has not borne a child, she may be re- 
admitted to the community on payment of such penalty as 
the elders may determine. If her own parents will not take 
her back, a man of the same gotra or section is appointed as 
her guardian and she can be married from his house. 

The ceremonies of a Panwar marriage are elaborate. 
Marriage-sheds are erected at the houses both of the bride 
and bridegroom in accordance with the usual practice, and 
just before the marriage, parties are given at both houses ; 
the village watchman brings the toraji or string of mango- 
leaves, which is hung round the marriage-shed in the manner 
of a triumphal arch, and in the evening the party assembles, 
the men sitting at one side of the shed and the women at the 
other. Presents of clothes are made to the child who is to 
be married, and the following song is sung : 

The mother of the bride grew angry and went away to the mango grove. 
Come soon, come quickly. Mother, it is tlie time for giving clothes. 
The father of the bridegroom has sent the bride a fold of cloth from his 

The fold of it is like the curve of the winnowing-fan, and there is a bodice 

decked with coral and pearls. 

Before the actual wedding the father of the bridegroom 
goes to the bride's house and gives her clothes and other 
presents, and the following is a specimen given by Mr. 
Muhammad Yusuf of the songs sung on this occasion : 

Five years old to-day is Bfija Bai the bride ; 

Send word to the mother of the bridegroom ; 

Her dress is too short, send for the Koshta, Husband ; 

The Koshta came and wove a border to the dress. 

Afterwards the girl's father goes and makes similar 
presents to the bridegroom. After many preliminary cere- 

342 PAN WAR RAJPUT part 

monies the marriage procession proper sets forth, consisting 
of men only. Before the boy starts his mother places her 
breast in his mouth ; the maid-servants stand before him 
with vessels of water, and he puts a pice in each. During 
the journey songs are sung, of which the following is a 
specimen : 

The linseed and gram are in flower in Chait.^ 

O ! the boy bridegroom is going to another country ; 

O Mother ! how may he go to another country ? 

Make payment before he enters another country ; 

O Mother ! how may he cross the border of another country ? 

Make payment before he crosses the border of another country ; 

O Mother ! how may he touch another's bower .'' 

Make payment before he touches another's bower ; 

O Mother ! how shall he bathe with strange water ? 

Make payment before he bathes with strange water ; 

O Mother ! how may he eat another's baiiwat ? "^ 

Make payment before he eats another's banwat ; 

O Mother ! how shall he marry another woman ? 

He shall wed her holding the little finger of her left hand. 

The bridegroom's party are always driven to the 
wedding in bullock-carts, and when they approach the bride's 
village her people also come to meet them in carts. All the 
party then turn and race to the village, and the winner obtains 
much distinction. The cartmen afterwards go to the bride- 
groom's father and he has to make them a present of from one 
to forty rupees. On arriving at the village the bridegroom 
is carried to Devi's shrine in a man's arms, while four other 
men hold a canopy over him, a.nd from there to the marriage- 
shed. He touches a bamboo of this, and a man seated on the 
top pours turmeric and water over his head. Five men of 
the groom's party go to the bride's house carrying salt, and 
here their feet are washed and the tika or mark of anointing 
is made on their foreheads. Afterwards they carry rice in 
the same manner and with this is the wedding-rice, coloured 
yellow with turmeric and known as the Lagun-gath. Before 
sunset the bridegroom goes to the bride's house for the 
wedding. Two baskets are hung before Dulha Deo's shrine 
inside the house, and the couple are seated in these with a 
cloth between them. The ends of their clothes are knotted, 

' March. - Rice boiled with milk and sugar. 


each places the right foot on the left foot of the other and 
holds the other's ear with the hand. Meanwhile a Brahman 
has climbed on to the roof of the house, and after saying the 
names of the bride and bridegroom shouts loudly, * Riivi na- 
zvara, Slta nawari^ SaodJianl or ' Ram, the* Bridegroom, and 
Sita, the Bride, pay heed.' The people inside the house 
repeat these words and someone beats on a brass plate ; the 
wedding-rice is poured over the heads of the couple, and a 
quid of betel is placed first in the mouth of one and then 
of the other. The bridegroom's party dance in the marriage- 
shed and their feet are washed. Two plough-yokes are 
brought in and a cloth spread over them, and the couple are 
seated on them face to face. A string of twisted grass is 
drawn round their necks and a thread is tied round their 
marriage-crowns. The bride's dowry is given and her rela- 
tives make presents to lier. This property is known as 
kJiamora, and is retained by a wife for her own use, her 
husband having no control over it. It is customary also in the 
caste for the parents to supply clothes to a married daughter 
as long as they live, and during this period a wife will not 
accept any clothes from her husband. On the following day 
the maid-servants bring a present of gulal or red powder to 
the fathers of the bride and bridegroom, who sprinkle it over 
each other. The bridegroom's father makes them a present 
of from one to twenty rupees according to his means, and 
also gives suitable fees to the barber, the washerman, the 
Barai or betel-leaf seller and the Bhat or bard. The maid- 
servants then bring vessels of water and throw it over each 
other in sport. After the evening meal, the party go back, 
the bride and bridegroom riding in the same cart. As they 
start the women sing : 

Let us go to the basket-maker 
And buy a costly pair of fans ; 
Fans worth a lot of money ; 
Let us praise the mother of the bride. 

After a few days at her husband's house the bride 8. widow - 
returns home, and though she pays short visits to his family "^^'"'"'^s^- 
from lime to time, she does not go to live with her husband 
until she is adolescent, when the \xsw7\\ patJioni or going-away 


ceremony is performed to celebrate the event. The people 
repeat a set of verses containing advice which the bride's 
mother is supposed to give her on this occasion, in which the 
desire imputed to the caste to make money out of their 
daughters is satirised. They are no doubt libellous as being 
a gross exaggeration, but may contain some substratum of 
truth. The gist of them is as follows : " Girl, if you are my 
daughter, heed what I say. I will make you many sweetmeats 
and speak words of wisdom. Always treat your husband 
better than his parents. Increase your private money 
{kJiajnord) by selling rice and sugar ; abuse your sisters-in-law 
to your husband's mother and become her favourite. Get 
influence over your husband and make him come wdth you to 
live with us. If you cannot persuade him, abandon your 
modesty and make quarrels in the household. Do not fear 
the village officers, but go to the houses of the patel ^ and 
Pandia ^ and ask them to arrange your quarrel." 

It is not intended to imply that Panwar women behave 
in this manner, but the passage is interesting as a sidelight 
on the joint family system. It concludes by advising the 
girl, if she cannot detach her husband from his family, to 
poison him and return as a widow. This last counsel is a 
gibe at the custom which the caste have of taking large sums 
of money for a widow on her second marriage. As such a 
woman is usually adult, and able at once to perform the 
duties of a wife and to work in the fields, she is highly valued, 
and her price ranges from Rs. 25 to Rs. 1000. In former 
times, it is stated, the disposal of widows did not rest with 
their parents but with the Sendia or headman of the caste. 
The last of them was Karun Panwar of Tumsar, who was 
empowered by the Bhonsla Raja of Nagpur to act in this 
manner, and was accustomed to receive an average sum of 
Rs. 25 for each widow or divorced woman whom he gave 
away in marriage. His power extended even to the 
reinstatement of women expelled from the caste, whom he 
could subsequently make over to any one who would pay for 
them. At the end of his life he lost his authority among the 
people by keeping a Dhlmar woman as a mistress, and he 
had no successor. A Panwar widow must not marry again 

' Village headman. ^ Patwari or village accountant. 


until the expiry of six months after her husband's death. 
The stool on which a widow sits for her second marria^c;e is 
afterwards stolen by her husband's friends. After the 
wedding when she reaches the boundary of his village the 
axle of her cart is removed, and a new one made of teitdn wood 
is substituted for it. The discarded axle and the shoes worn 
by the husband at the ceremony are thrown away, and the 
stolen stool is buried in a field. These things, Mr. Hlra Lai 
points out, arc regarded as defiled, because they have been 
accessories in an unlucky ceremony, that of the marriage of a 
widow. On this point Dr. Jevons writes ' that the peculiar 
characteristic of taboo is this transmissibility of its infection 
or contagion. In ancient Greece the offerings used for the 
purification of the murderer became themselves polluted during 
the process and had to be buried. A similar reasoning applies 
to the articles employed in the marriage of a widow. The 
wood of the tetidti or ebony tree " is chosen for the substituted 
axle, because it has the valuable property of keeping off spirits 
and ghosts. When a child is born a plank of this wood is laid 
along the door of the room to keep the spirits from troubling 
the mother and the newborn infant. In the same way, no 
doubt, this wood keeps the ghost of the first husband from 
entering with the widow into her second husband's village. 
The reason for the ebony-wood being a spirit-scarer seems 
to lie in its property of giving out sparks when burnt. " The 
burning wood gives out showers of sparks, and it is a common 
amusement to put pieces in a camp fire in order to see the 
column of sparks ascend." ^ The sparks would have a power- 
ful effect on the primitive mind and probably impart a sacred 
character to the tree, and as they would scare away wild 
animals, the property of averting spirits might come to attach 
to the wood. The Panwars .seldom resort to divorce, except 
in the case of open and flagrant immorality on the part of a 
wife. " They are not strict," Mr. Low writes,* " in the matter 
of sexual offences within the caste, though they bitterly resent 
and if able heavily avenge any attempt on the virtue of their 
women by an outsider. The men of the caste are on the 

' Introduction to the History of ^ Gamble, Manual of Indian 

Religion, p. 59. Timbers, p. 461. 

2 Diospyros tomentosa. * Balaghat District Gazetteer. 

346 PAN WAR RAJPUT part 

other hand somewhat notorious for the freedom with which 
they enter into relations with the women of other castes." 
They not infrequently have Gond and Ahir girls from 
the families of their farmservants as members of their 

9. Reii- The caste worship the ordinary Hindu divinities, and their 
^'°"' household god is Dulha Deo, the deified bridegroom. He 

is represented by a nut and a date, which are wrapped in a 
cloth and hung on a peg in the wall of the house above the plat- 
form erected to him. Every year, or at the time of a marriage 
or the birth of a first child, a goat is offered to Dulha Deo. The 
animal is brought to the platform and given some rice to eat. 
A dedicatory mark of red ochre is made on its forehead and 
water is poured over the body, and as soon as it shivers it is 
killed. The shivering is considered to be an indication 
from the deity that the sacrifice is acceptable. The 
flesh is cooked and eaten by the family inside the house, 
and the skin and bones are buried below the floor. Narayan 
Deo or Vishnu or the Sun is represented by a bunch of 
peacock's feathers. He is generally kept in the house of a 
Mahar, and when his worship is to be celebrated he is brought 
thence in a gourd to the Panwar's house, and a black goat, 
rice and cakes are offered to him by the head of the household. 
While the offering is being made the Mahar sings and dances, 
and when the flesh of the goat is eaten he is permitted to sit 
inside the Panwar's house and begin the feast, the Panwars 
eating after him. On ordinary occasions a Mahar is not 
allowed to come inside the house, and any Panwar who took 
food with him would be put out of caste ; and this rite is no 
doubt a recognition of the position of the Mahars as the 
earlier residents of the country before the Panwars came to 
it. The Turukh or Turk sept of Panwars pay a similar 
worship to liaba Farld, the Muhammadan saint of Girar. 
He is also represented by a bundle of peacock's feathers, and 
when a goat is sacrificed to him a Muhammadan kills it and 
is the first to partake of its flesh. 

10. Wor- When a man has been killed by a tiger {birgh) he is 
ship of the (jeified and worshipped as Bagh Deo. A hut is made in the 

spirits of '■ ^ '^ • 1 1 • • J 

those dyinf,' yard of the house, and an image of a tiger is placed mside 
derth""' '^^^ worshipped on the anniversary of the man's death. 


The members of the household will not afterwards kill a 
tiger, as they think the animal has become a member of the 
family. A man who is bitten by a cobra {niig) and dies is 
similarly worshipped as Nag Deo. The image of a snake 
made of silver or iron is venerated, and the family will not 
kill a snake. If a man is killed by some other animal, or 
by drowning or a fall from a tree, his spirit is worshipped as 
Ban Deo or the forest god with similar rites, being represented 
by a little lump of rice and red lead. In all these cases it is 
supposed, as pointed out by Sir James Frazer, that the ghost 
of the man who has come to such an untimely end is 
especially malignant, and will bring trouble upon the 
survivors unless appeased with sacrifices and offerings. A 
good instance of the same belief is given by him in 
Psyche^ s Task ^ as found among the Karens of Burma : 
" They put red, yellow and white rice in a basket and leave 
it in the forest, saying : Ghosts of such as died by falling 
from a tree, ghosts of such as died of hunger or thirst, ghosts 
of such as died by the tiger's tooth or the serpent's fang, 
ghosts of the murdered dead, ghosts of such as died by 
smallpox or cholera, ghosts of dead lepers, oh ill-treat us 
not, seize not upon our persons, do us no harm ! Oh stay 
here in this wood ! We will bring hither red rice, yellow 
rice, and white rice for your subsistence." 

That the same superstition is generally prevalent in the 
Central Provinces appears to be shown by the fact that 
among castes who practise cremation, the bodies of men 
who come to a violent end or die of smallpox or leprosy 
are buried, though whether burial is considered as more 
likely to prevent the ghost from walking than cremation, 
is not clear. Possibly, however, it may be considered that 
the bodies are too impure to be committed to the sacred 

Cremation of the dead is the rule, but the bodies of n. Funeral 
those who have not died a natural death are buried, as '^''^^' 
also of persons who are believed to have been possessed of 
the goddess Devi in their lifetime. The bodies of small 
children are buried when the Khir Chatai ceremony has not 

' P. 62, quoting from Bringand, Missions Catholicpics, xx. (1888), 
Les Karens de la Birinanie, I.cs p. 208. 

348 PAN WAR RAJPUT part 

been performed. This takes place when a child is about 
two years old : he is invited to the house of some member 
of the same section on the Diwali day and given to eat 
some Khir or a mess of new rice with milk and sugar, and 
thus apparently is held to become a proper member of the 
caste, as boys do in other castes on having their ears pierced. 
When a corpse is to be burnt a heap of cowdung cakes is 
made, on which it is laid, while others are spread over it, 
together with butter, sugar and linseed. The fire with which 
the pyre is kindled is carried by the son or other chief 
mourner in an earthen pot at the head of the corpse. After 
the cremation the ashes of the body are thrown into water, 
but the bones are kept by the chief mourner ; his head and 
face are then shaved by the barber, and the hair is thrown 
into the water with most of the bones ; he may retain a few 
to carry them to the Nerbudda at a convenient season, 
burying them meanwhile under a mango or pipal tree. A 
present of a rupee or a cow may be made to the barber. 
After the removal of a dead body the house is swept, and 
the rubbish with the broom and dustpan are thrown away 
outside the village. Before the body is taken away the 
widow of the dead man places her hands on his breast and 
forehead, and her bangles are broken by another widow. 
The shrdddJi ceremony is performed every year in the month 
of Kunwar (September) on the same day of the fortnight as 
that on which the death took place. On the day before the 
ceremony the head of the household goes to the houses of 
those whom he wishes to invite, and sticks some grains of 
rice on their foreheads. The guests must then fast up to 
the ceremony. On the following day, when they arrive at 
noon, the host, wearing a sacred thread of twisted grass, 
washes their feet with water in which the sacred kiisa grass 
has been mixed, and marks their foreheads with sandal- 
paste and rice. The leaf-plates of the guests are set out 
inside the house, and a very small quantity of cooked rice 
is placed in each. The host then gathers up all this rice 
and throws it on to the roof of the house while his wife 
throws up some water, calling aloud the name of the dead 
man whose shraddJi ceremony is being performed, and after 
this the whole party take their dinner. 


As has been shown, the Panwars have abandoned most 12. Caste 
of the distinctive Rajput customs. They do not wear the '•'^'^'P''"^- 
sacred thread and they permit the remarriage of widows. 
They eat the flesh of goats, fowls, wild pig, game-birds and 
fish, but abstain from Hquor except on such ceremonial 
occasions as the worship of Narayan Deo, when every one 
must partake of it. Mr. Low states that the injurious habit 
of smoking Diadak (a preparation of opium) is growing in 
the caste. They will take water to drink from a Gond's 
hand and in some localities even cooked food. This is the 
outcome of their close association in agriculture, the Gonds 
having been commonly employed as farmservants by Panwar 
cultivators. A Brahman usually officiates at their ceremonies, 
but his presence is not essential and his duties may be per- 
formed by a member of the caste. Every Panwar male or 
female has a guru or spiritual preceptor, who is either a 
Brahman, a Gosain or a Bairagi. From time to time the 
guru comes to visit his cliela or disciple, and on such occa- 
sions the cJiauk or sacred place is prepared with lines of 
wheat-flour. Two wooden stools are set within it and the 
guru and his diela take their seats on these. Their heads 
are covered with a new piece of cloth and the guru whispers 
some text into the ear of the disciple. Sweetmeats and 
other delicacies are then offered to the guru, and the disciple 
makes him a present of one to five rupees. When a Panwar 
is put out of caste two feasts have to be given on reinstate- 
ment, known as the Maili and Chokhi Roti (impure and 
pure food). The former is held in the morning on the bank 
of a tank or river and is attended by men only. A goat is 
killed and served with rice to the caste-fellows, and in serious 
cases the offender's head and face are shaved, and he prays, 
* God forgive me the sin, it will never be repeated.' The 
Chokhi Roti is held in the evening at the offender's house, 
the elders and women as well as men of the caste being 
present. The Sendia or leader of the caste eats first, and 
he will not begin his meal unless he finds a douceur of from 
one to five rupees deposited beneath his leaf-plate. The 
whole cost of the ceremony of readmission is from fifteen to 
fifty rupees. 

The Panwar women wear their clothes tied in the 

350 PAN WAR RAJPUT part 

13. Social Hindustani and not in the Maratha fashion. They are 
customs, tattooed on the legs, hands and face, the face being usually 
decorated with single dots which are supposed to enhance 
its beauty, much after the same fashion as patches in 
England. Padmakar, the Saugor poet, Mr. Hira Lai re- 
marks, compared the dot on a woman's chin to a black bee 
buried in a half-ripe mango. The women, Mr. Low says, are 
addicted to dances, plays and charades, the first being 
especially graceful performances. They are skilful with 
their fingers and make pretty grass mats and screens for the 
house, and are also very good cooks and appreciate variety 
in food. The Panwars do not eat off the ground, but place 
their dishes on little iron stands, sitting themselves on low 
wooden stools. The housewife is a very important person, 
and the husband will not give anything to eat or drink 
out of the house without her concurrence. Mr. Low writes 
on the character and abilities of the Panwars as follows : 
" The Panwar is to Balaghat what the Kunbi is to Berar or 
the Gujar to Hoshangabad, but at the same time he is less 
entirely attached to the soil and its cultivation, and much 
more intelligent and cosmopolitan than either. One of the 
most intelligent officials in the Agricultural Department is 
a Panwar, and several members of the caste have made 
large. sums as forest and railway contractors in this District ; 
Panwar shikaris are also not uncommon. They are generally 
averse to sedentary occupations, and though quite ready to 
avail themselves of the advantages of primary education, 
they do not, as a rule, care to carry their studies to a point 
that would ensure their admission to the higher ranks of 
Government service. Very (qw of them are to be found as 
patwaris, constables or peons. They are a handsome race, 
with intelligent faces, unusually fair, with high foreheads, 
and often grey eyes. They are not, as a rule, above middle 
height, but they are active and hard-working and by no 
means deficient in courage and animal spirits, or a sense of 
humour. They are clannish in the extreme, and to elucidate 
a criminal case in which no one but Panwars are concerned, 
and in a Panwar village, is usually a harder task than the 
average local police officer can tackle. At times they are 
apt to affect, in conversation with Government officials, a 


whining and unpleasant tone, especially when pleading their 
claim to some concession or other ; and they are by no 
means lacking in astuteness and are good hands at a bargain. 
But they are a pleasant, intelligent and plucky race, not 
easily cast down by misfortune and always read)' to attempt 
new enterprises in almost any direction save those indicated 
by the Agricultural Department. 

" In the art of rice cultivation they are past masters. 
They are skilled tank-builders, though perhaps hardly equal 
to the Kohlis of Chanda. But they excel especially in the 
mending and levelling of their fields, in neat transplantation, 
and in the choice and adaptation of the different varieties 
of rice to land of varying qualities. They are by no means 
specially efficient as labourers, though they and their wives 
do their fair share of field work ; but they are well able to 
control the labour of others, especially of aborigines, through 
whom most of their tank and other works are executed." 

I. General 



1 . General notice. 5 . Social customs. 

2. Tribal subdivisions. 6. Methods of cheating among 

3. Marriage. Patharis. 

4. Religion. 7. Musicians and p7'iests. 

Pardhan, Pathari, Panal. — An inferior branch of the 
notice. Gond tribe whose occupation is to act as the priests and 
minstrels of the Gonds. In 191 1 the Pardhans numbered 
nearly 120,000 persons in the Central Provinces and Berar. 
The only other locality where they are found is Hyderabad, 
which returned 8000. The name Pardhan is of Sanskrit 
origin and signifies a minister or agent. It is the regular 
designation of the principal minister of a Rajput State, who 
often fulfils the functions of a Mayor of the Palace. That 
it was applied to the tribe in this sense is shown by the fact 
that they are also known as Diwan, which has the same 
meaning. There is a tradition that the Gond kings em- 
ployed Pardhans as their ministers, and as the Pardhans 
acted as genealogists they may have been more intelligent 
than the Gonds, though they are in no degree less illiterate. 
To themselves and their Gond relations the Pardhans are 
frequently not known by that name, which has been given 
to them by the Hindus, but as Panal. Other names for the 
tribe are Parganiha, Desai and Pathari. Parganiha is a title 
signifying the head of a pargana, and is now applied by 
courtesy to some families in Chhattisgarh. Desai has the 
same signification, being a variant of Deshmukh or the 
Maratha revenue officer in charge of a circle of villages. 
Pathari means a bard or genealogist, or according to 
another derivation a hillman. On the Satpura plateau and 




Semrost, Cello. . Dtrh\. 


in Chhattlsgarh the tribe is known as Pardhan Patharia. 
In Ralaghat they are also called Mokasi. The Gonds 
themselves look down on the Pardhfins and say that the 
word Patharia means inferior, and they relate that Bura Deo, 
their god, had seven sons. These were talking together one 
day as they dined and they said that every caste had an 
inferior branch to do it homage, but they had none ; and 
they therefore agreed that the youngest brother and his 
descendants should be inferior to the others and make 
obeisance to them, while the others promised to treat him 
almost as their equal and give him a share in all the offerings 
to the dead. The Pardhans or Patharias are the descendants 
of the youngest brother and they accost the Gonds with the 
greeting ' Babu Johar,' or ' Good luck, sir.' The Gonds 
return the greeting by saying ' Pathari Johar,' or ' How do 
you do, Pathari.' Curiously enough Johar is also the 
salutation sent by a Rajput chief to an inferior landholder,^ 
and the custom must apparently have been imitated by the 
Gonds. A variant of the story is that one day the seven 
Gond brothers were worshipping their god, but he did not 
make his appearance ; so the youngest of them made a 
musical instrument out of a string and a piece of wood and 
played on it. The god was pleased with the music and 
came down to be worshipped, and hence the Pardhans 
as the descendants of the youngest brother continue to play 
on the kingri or lyre, which is their distinctive instrument. 
The above stories have been invented to account for the 
social inferiority of the Pardhans to the Gonds, but their 
position merely accords with the general rule that the 
bards and genealogists of any caste are a degraded section. 
The fact is somewhat contrary to preconceived ideas, but 
the explanation given of it is that such persons make their 
living by begging from the remainder of the caste and hence 
are naturally looked down upon by them ; and further, that 
in pursuit of their calling they wander about to attend at 
wedding feasts all over the country, and consequently take 
food with many people of doubtful social position. This 
seems a reasonable interpretation of the rule of the in- 

' Tod's Kcijasthcvt, i. p. 165. But Johar is a common term of salutation 
among the Hindus. 

■ VOL. IV 2 A 



2. Tribal 

feriority of the bard, which at any rate obtains generally 
among the Hindu castes. 

The tribe have several endogamous divisions, of which 
the principal are the Raj Pardhans, the Ganda Pardhans and 
the Thothia Pardhans. The Raj Pardhans appear to be the 
descendants of alliances between Raj Gonds and Pardhan 
women. They say that formerly the priests of Bura Deo 
lived a celibate life, and both men and women attended to 
worship the god ; but on one occasion the priests ran away 
with some women and after this the Gonds did not know 
who should be appointed to serve the deity. While they 
were thus perplexed, a kingri (or rude wooden lyre) fell from 
heaven on to the lap of one of them, and, in accordance 
with this plain indication of the divine will, he became the 
priest, and was the ancestor of the Raj Pardhans ; and since 
this contretemps the priests are permitted to marry, while 
women are no longer allowed to attend the worship of Bura 
Deo. The Thothia subtribe are said to be the descendants of 
illicit unions, the word Thothia meaning * maimed ' ; while 
the Gandas are the offspring of intermarriages between the 
Pardhans and members of that degraded caste. Other 
groups are the Mades or those of the Mad country in 
Chanda and Bastar, the Khalotias or those of the Chhattisgarh 
plain, -and the Deogarhias of Deogarh in Chhindwara ; and 
there are also some occupational divisions, as the Kandres 
or bamboo -workers, the Gaitas who .act as priests in 
Chhattisgarh, and the Arakhs who engage in service and 
sell old clothes. A curious grouping is found in Chanda, 
where the tribe are divided into the Gond Patharis and 
Chor or 'Thief Patharis. The latter have obtained their 
name from their criminal propensities, but they are said to 
be proud of it and to refuse to intermarry with any families 
not having the designation of Chor Pathari. In Raipur the 
Patharis are said to be the offspring of Gonds by women of 
other castes, and the descendants of such unions. The 
exogamous divisions of the Pardhans are the same as those 
of the Gonds, and like them they are split up into groups 
worshipping different numbers of gods whose members may 
not marry with one another. 

A Pardhan wedding is usually held in the bridegroom's 


village in some public place, such as the market or cross- 3. Mar- 
roads. The boy wears a blanket and carries a dagger in his ^^^^^' 
hand. The couple walk five times round in a circle, after 
which the boy catches hold of the girl's hand. He tries to 
open her fist which she keeps closed, and when he succeeds 
in this he places an iron ring on her little finger and puts his 
right toe over that of the girl's. The officiating priest then 
ties the ends of their clothes together and five chickens are 
killed. The customary bride-price is Rs. 1 2, but it varies in 
different localities. A widower taking a girl bride has, as a 
rule, to pay a double price. A widow is usually taken in 
marriage by her deceased husband's younger brother. 

As the priests of the Gonds, the Pardhans are employed 4- Reii- 
to conduct the ceremonial worship of their great god Bura ^'°"' 
Deo, which takes place on the third day of the bright fort- 
night of Baisakh (April). Many goats or pigs are then 
offered to him with liquor, cocoanuts, betel-leaves, flowers, 
lemons and rice. Bura Deo is always enshrined under a tree 
outside the village, either of the mahua or sdj {Termiualia 
toinentosd) varieties. In Chhattlsgarh the Gonds say that 
the origin of Bura Deo was from a child born of an illicit 
union between a Gond and a Rawat woman. The father 
murdered the child by strangling it, and its spirit then began 
to haunt and annoy the man and all his relations, and 
gradually extended its attentions to all the Gonds of the 
surrounding country. It finally consented to be appeased 
by a promise of adoration from the whole tribe, and since 
then has been installed as the principal deity of the Gonds. 
The story is interesting as showing how completely devoid 
of any supernatural majesty or power is the Gond conception 
of their principal deity. 

Like the Gonds, the Pardhans will eat almost any kind of 5. Social 
food, including beef, pork and the flesh of rats and mice, but '^"^^°"'^- 
they will not eat the leavings of others. They will take food 
from the hands of Gonds, but the Gonds do not return the 
compliment. Among the Hindus generally the Pardhans 
are much despised, and their touch conveys impurity while 
that of a Gond does not. Every Pardhan has tattooed on 
his left arm near the inside of the elbow a dotted figure 
which represents his totem or the animal, plant or other 

356 PARDHAN part 

natural object after which his sept is named. Many of them 
have a better type of countenance than the Gonds, which is 
perhaps due to an infusion of Hindu blood. They are also 
generally more intelligent and cunning. They have criminal 
propensities, and the Patharias of Chhattisgarh are especially 
noted for cattle-lifting and thieving. Writing forty years 
ago Captain Thomson ^ described the Pardhans of Seoni as 
bearing the very worst of characters, many of them being 
regular cattle-lifters and gang robbers. In some parts of 
Seoni they had become the terror of the village proprietors, 
whose houses and granaries they fired if they were in any 
way reported on or molested. Since that time the Pardhans 
have become quite peaceable, but they still have a bad 
reputation for petty thieving, 
6. Methods In Chhattisgarh one subdivision is said to be known as 

of cheating Sonthasfa (sona, gold, and tha^^, a cheat), because they 

among fc> \ ' o ' ^ ' 

Patharis. cheat people by passing counterfeit gold. Their methods 
were described as follows in 1872 by Captain McNeill, 
District Superintendent of Police : ^ " They procure a 
quantity of the dry bark of the pipal,^ mahua,"* tamarind 
ox gular^ trees and set it on fire ; when it has become red- 
hot it is raked into a small hole and a piece of well-polished 
brass is deposited among the glowing embers. It is 
constantly moved and turned about and in ten or fifteen 
minutes has taken a deep orange colour resembling gold. It 
is then placed in a small heap of wood-ashes and after a 
few minutes taken out again and carefully wrapped in 
cotton-wool. The peculiar orange colour results from the 
sulphur and resin in the bark being rendered volatile. They 
then proceed to dispose of the gold, sometimes going to a fair 
and buying cattle. On concluding a bargain they suddenly 
find they have no money, and after some hesitation 
reluctantly produce the gold, and say they are willing to part 
with it at a disadvantage, thereby usually inducing the 
belief that it has been stolen. The cupidity of the owner 
of the cattle is aroused, and he accepts the gold at a rate 
which would be very advantageous if it were genuine, 

1 Seoni Settlemenl Report (1867), The passage is somewhat abridged in 

p ,i'5_ reproduction. 

- From a collection of notes on ^ Ficus R. * Bassia latifolia. 

Patharis by various police officers. '•' Ficus glomerata. 


At other times they join a party of pilgrims, to which some 
of their confederates have already obtained admission in 
disguise, and offer to sell their gold as being in great want of 
money. A piece is first sold to the confederates on very 
cheap terms and the other pilgrims eagerly participate." It 
would appear that the Patharis have not much to learn from 
the owners of buried treasure or the confidence or three-card 
trick performers of London, and their methods are in striking 
contrast to the guileless simplicity usually supposed to be a 
characteristic of the primitive tribes. Mr. White states that 
" All the property acquired is taken back to the village and 
there distributed by a pancJidyat or committee, whose head 
is known as Mokasi. The Mokasi is elected by the 
community and may also be deposed by it, though he 
usually holds office for life ; to be a successful candidate for 
the position of Mokasi one should have wealth and experience 
and it is not a disadvantage to have been in jail. The 
Mokasi superintends the internal affairs of the community 
and maintains good relations with the proprietor and village 
watchman by means of gifts." 

The Pardhans and Patharis are also, as already stated, 7. 
village musicians, and their distinctive instrument the kingri anTpn^sts 
or khigadi is described by Mr. White as consisting of a 
stick passed through a gourd. A string or wire is 
stretched over this and the instrument is played with the 
fingers. Another kind possesses three strings of woven 
horse-hair and is played with the help of a bow. The 
women of the Ganda Pardhan subtribe act as midwives. 
Mr. Tawney wrote of the Pardhans of Chhindwara : ^ 
" The Raj -Pardhans are the bards of the Gonds and they 
can also officiate as priests, but the Bhumka generally acts 
in the latter capacity and the Pardhans confine themselves 
to singing the praises of the god. At every public worship 
in the Deo-khalla or dwelling-place of the gods, there 
should, if possible, be a Pardhan, and great men use them on 
less important occasions. They cannot even worship their 
household gods or be married without the Pardhans. The 
Raj-Pardhans are looked down on by the Gonds, and 
considered as somewhat inferior, seeing that they take the 

' Note already quoted. 

358 PARDHAN part ii 

offerings at religious ceremonies and the clothes of the 
dear departed at funerals. This has never been the business 
of a true Gond, who seems never happier than when 
wandering in the jungle, and who above all things loves his 
axe, and next to that a tree to chop at. There is nothing 
in the ceremonies or religion of the Pardhans to distinguish 
them from the Gonds." 



1. General notice of the caste. 7. Methods of caichi?ig birds. 

2. Subdivisions. 2- Hunting with leopards. 

3. Marriaoe and funeral customs. ■'' J oy s ags. 

10. Hawks. 
* ■ II. Crocodile fishing. 

5 . Z>r<f JJ-, /i?tf^/ and social customs. 1 2. Other occupations and crimi?ial 

6. Ordeals. p?-actices. 

Pardhi,^ Bahelia, Mirshikar, Mog-hia, Shikari, Takan- i. General 
kaP. — A low caste of \vanderin$T fowlers and hunters. Thev notice of 

111 • , ^ , T^ • '^^ caste. 

numbered about 15,000 persons m the Central rrovmces 
and Berar in 1 9 1 i , and are found scattered over several 
Districts. These figures include about 2000 Bahelias. The 
word Pardhi is derived from the Marathi paradh, hunting. 
Shikari, the common term for a native hunter, is an alter- 
native name for the caste, but particularly applied to those 
who use firearms, which most Pardhis refuse to do. Moghia 
is the Hindustani word for fowler, and Takankar is the 
name of a small occupational offshoot of the Pardhis in 
Berar, who travel from village to village and roughen the 
household grinding -mills when they have worn smooth. 
The word is derived from iakna^ to tap or chisel. The 
caste appears to be a mixed group made up of Bawarias or 
other Rajput outcastes, Gonds and social derelicts from all 
sources. The Pardhis perhaps belong more especially to 
the Maratha country, as they are numerous in Khandesh, 
and many of them talk a dialect of Gujarati. In the 

' This article is partly compiled ¥.\\.U' Bcrdr Ce}iS2is Heporf (i^>il), s.x\A 

from papers by Mr. Aduram Chaudhri Mr. Sewell's note on the caste quoted 

and Pandit Pyare Lai Misra of the inl^lr. (Jidiytr^s Lectures on the Criminal 

Gazetteer Oftice, and extracts from Mr. Tribes of the Central Provinces. 


36o PARDHI part 

northern Districts their speech is a mixture of Marwari and 
Hindi, while they often know Marathi or Urdu as well. 
The name for the similar class of people in northern India 
is Bahelia, and in the Central Provinces the Bahelias and 
Pardhis merge into one another and are not recognisable as 
distinct groups. The caste is recruited from the most 
diverse elements, and women of any except the impure 
castes can be admitted into the community ; and on this 
account their customs differ greatly in different localities. 
According to their own legends the first ancestor of the 
Pardhis was a Gond, to whom Mahade'o taught the art 
of snaring game so that he might avoid the sin of shooting 
it ; and hence the ordinary Pardhis never use a gun. 
2. Sub- Like other wandering castes the Pardhis have a large 

divisions, number of endogamous groups, varying lists being often 
given in different areas. The principal subcastes appear to 
be the Shikari or Bhil Pardhis, who use firearms ; the 
Phanse Pardhis, who hunt with traps and snares ; the 
Langoti Pardhis, so called because they wear only a narrow 
strip of cloth round the loins ; and the Takankars. Both 
the Takankars and Langotis have strong criminal tendencies. 
Several other groups are recorded in different Districts, 
as the Chitewale, who hunt with a tame leopard ; the 
Gayake, who stalk their prey behind a bullock ; the Gosain 
Pardhis, who dress like religious mendicants in ochre-coloured 
clothes and do not kill deer, but only hares, jackals and 
foxes ; the Shishi ke Telwale, who sell crocodile's oil ; and 
the Bandarwale who go about with performing monkeys. 
The Bahelias have a subcaste known as Karijat, the members 
of which only kill birds of a black colour. Their exogamous 
groups are nearly all those of Rajput tribes, as Sesodia, 
Panwar, Solanki, Chauhan, Rathor, and so on ; it is probable 
that these have been adopted through imitation by vagrant 
Bawarias and others sojourning in Rajputana. There are 
also a few groups with titular or other names, and it is 
stated that members of clans bearing Rajput names will 
take daughters from the others in marriage, but will not 
give their daughters to them. 

Girls appear to be somewhat scarce in the caste and a 
bride -price is usually paid, which is given as Rs. 9 in 


Chanda, Rs. 35 in Bilaspur, and Rs. 60 or more in Iloshang- 3. Mar- 
abad and Saugor. If a girl should be seduced by a man fun^^^T 
of the caste she would be united to him by the ceremony of customs, 
a widow's marriage : but her family will require a bride from 
her husband's family in exchange for the girl whose value 
he has destroyed. Even if led astray by an outsider a girl 
may be readmitted into the caste ; and in the extreme case 
of her being debauched by her brother, she may still be 
married to one of the community, but no one will take food 
from her hands during her lifetime, though her children will 
be recognised as proper Pardhis. A special fine of Rs. lOO 
is imposed on a brother who commits this crime. The 
ceremony of marriage varies according to the locality in 
which they reside ; usually the couple walk seven times 
round a tdnda or collection of their small mat tents. In 
Berar a cloth is held up by four poles as a canopy over 
them and they are preceded by a married woman carrying 
five pitchers of water. Divorce and the marriage of widows 
are freely permitted. The caste commonly bury their dead, 
placing the head to the north. They do not shave their 
heads in token of mourning. 

In Berar their principal deity is the goddess Devi, who 4. Reii- 
is known by different names. Every family of Langoti " 
Pardhis has, Mr. Gayer states,^ its image in silver of the 
goddess, and because of this no Langoti Pardhi woman will 
wear silver below the waist or hang her sari on a peg, as it must 
never be put on the same level as the goddess. They also 
sometimes refuse to wear red or coloured clothes, one 
explanation for this being that the image of the goddess is 
placed on a bed of red cloth. In Hoshangabad their 
principal deity is called Guraiya Deo, and his image, consist- 
ing of a human figure embossed in silver, is kept in a leather 
bag on the west side of their tents ; and for this reason 
women going out of the encampment for a necessary 
purpose always proceed to the east. They also sleep with 
their feet to the east. Goats are offered to Guraiya Deo 
and their horns are placed in his leather bag. In 
Hoshangabad they sacrifice a fowl to the ropes of their 
tents at the Dasahra and Diwali festivals, and on the former 

^ Lectures on Criminal Tribes of the C.P., p. I9- 

362 PARDHI part 

occasion clean their hunting implements and make offerings 
to them of turmeric and rice. They are reported to believe 
that the sun and moon die and are reborn daily. The 
hunter's calling is one largely dependent on luck or chance, 
and, as might be expected, the Pardhis are firm believers in 
omens, and observe various rules by which they think their 
fortune will be affected. A favourite omen is the simple 
device of taking some rice or juari in the hand and counting 
the grains. Contrary to the usual rule, even numbers are 
considered lucky and odd ones unlucky. If the first result 
is unsatisfactory a second or third trial may be made. If 
a winnowing basket or millstone be let fall and drop to the 
right hand it is a lucky omen, and similarly if a flower from 
Devi's garland should fall to the right side. The bellowing 
of cows, the mewing of a cat, the howling of a jackal and 
sneezing are other unlucky omens. If a snake passes from 
left to right it is a bad omen and if from right to left a good 
one. A man must not sleep with his head on the threshold 
of a house or in the doorway of a tent under penalty of a 
fine of Rs. 2-8 ; the only explanation given of this rule is 
that such a position is unlucky because a corpse is carried 
out across the threshold. A similar penalty is imposed if 
he falls down before his wife even by accident. A Pardhi, 
with Ihe exception of members of the Sesodia clan, must 
never sleep on a cot, a fine of five rupees being imposed for 
a breach of this rule. A man who has once caught a deer 
must not again have the hair of his head touched by a razor, 
and thus the Pardhis may be recognised by their long and 
unkempt locks. A breach of this rule is punished with a 
fine of fifteen rupees, but it is not observed everywhere. 
A woman must never step across the rope or peg of a tent, 
nor upon the place where the blood of a deer has flowed on 
to the ground. During her monthly period of impurity a 
woman must not cross a river nor sit in a boat. A Pardhi 
will never kill or sell a dog and they will not hunt wild dogs 
even if money is offered to them. This is probably because 
they look upon the wild dog as a fellow-hunter, and consider 
that to do him injury would bring ill-luck upon themselves. 
A Pardhi has also theoretically a care for the preservation 
of game. When he has caught a number of birds in his 


trap, he will let a pair of them loose so that they may go 
on breeding. Women arc not permitted to take any part 
in the work of hunting, but are confined strictly to their 
household duties. A woman who kicks her husband's stick 
is fined Rs. 2-8. The butt end of the stick is employed 
for mixing vegetables and other purposes, but the meaning 
of the rule is not clear unless one of its uses is for the 
enforcement of conjugal discipline. A Pardhi may not 
swear by a dog, a cat or a squirrel. Their most solemn 
oath is in the name of their deity Guraiya Deo, and it is 
believed that any one who falsely takes this oath will become 
a leper. The Phans Pardhis may not travel in a railway 
train, and some of them are forbidden even to use a cart or 
other conveyance. 

In dress and appearance the Pardhis are disreputable 5. Dress, 
and dirty. Their features are dark and their hair matted and g°^j J 
unkempt. They never wear shoes and say that they are customs. 
protected by a special promise of the goddess Devi to their 
first ancestor that no insect or reptile in the forests should 
injure them. The truth is, no doubt, that shoes would make 
it impossible for them to approach their game without 
disturbing it, and from long practice the soles of their feet 
become impervious to thorns and minor injuries. Similarly 
the Langoti Pardhis are so called because they wear only a 
narrow strip of cloth round the loins, the reason probably 
being that a long one would impede them by flapping and 
catching in the brushwood. But the explanation which 
they themselves give,^ a somewhat curious one in view 
of their appearance, is that an ordinary dhoti or loin-cloth 
if worn might become soiled and therefore unlucky. Their 
women do not have their noses pierced and never wear 
spangles or other marks on the forehead. The Pardhis still 
obtain fire by igniting a piece of cotton with flint and iron. 
Mr. Sewell notes that their women eat at the same time 
as the men, instead of after them as among most Hindus. 
They explain this custom by saying that on one occasion 
a woman tried to poison her husband and it was therefore 
adopted as a precaution against similar attempts ; but no 
doubt it has always prevailed, and the more orthodox 
' Berdr Census Report (1881), p. 135. 


practice would be almost incompatible with their gipsy 
life. Similar reasons of convenience account for their 
custom of celebrating marriages all the year round and 
neglecting the Hindu close season of the four months 
of the rains. They travel about with little huts made 
of matting, which can be rolled up and carried off in a 
few minutes. If rain comes on they seek shelter in the 
nearest village.^ In some localities the caste eat no food 
cooked with butter or oil. They are usually considered 
as an impure caste, whose touch is a defilement to Hindus. 
Brahmans do not officiate at their ceremonies, though the 
Pardhis resort to the village Joshi or astrologer to have 
a propitious date indicated for marriages. They have to 
pay for such services in money, as Brahmans usually refuse 
to accept even uncooked grain from them. After child- 
birth women are held to be impure and forbidden to cook 
for their families for a period varying from six weeks 
to six months. During t^ieir periodical impurity they 
are secluded for four, six or eight days, the Pardhis 
observing very strict rules in these matters, as is not 
infrequently the case with the lowest castes. Their caste 
meetings, Mr. Sewell states, are known as Deokaria or 
' An act performed in honour of God ' ; at these meetings 
arrangements for expeditions are discussed and caste 
disputes decided. The penalty for social offences is a fine 
of a specified quantity of liquor, the liquor provided by 
male and female delinquents being drunk by the men and 
women respectively. The punishment for adultery in either 
sex consists in cutting off a piece of the left ear with a razor, 
and a man guilty of intercourse with a prostitute is punished 
as if he had committed adultery. The Pardhi women are 
said to be virtuous. 
6. Ordeals. The Pardhis still preserve the primitive method of trial 

by ordeal. If a woman is suspected of misconduct she is 
made to pick a pice coin out of boiling oil ; or a pipal leaf 
is placed on her hand and a red-hot axe laid over it, and if 
her hand is burnt or she refuses to stand the test she is pro- 
nounced guilty. Or, in the case of a man, the accused is 
made to dive into water ; and as he dives an arrow is shot 

' Hotnhay Ethnographic Survey, art. Pardhi. 


from a bow. A swift runner fetches and brings back the 
arrow, and if the diver can remain under water until the 
runner has returned he is held to be innocent. In Nimar, 
if an unmarried girl becomes pregnant, two cakes of dough 
are prepared, a piece of silver being placed in one and a lump 
of coal in the other. The girl takes one of the cakes, and if 
it is found to contain the coal she is expelled from the com- 
munity, while if she chooses the piece of silver, she is par- 
doned and made over to one of the caste. The idea of the 
ordeal is apparently to decide the question whether her 
condition was caused by a Pardhi or an outsider. 

The Phans Pardhis hunt all kinds of birds and the smaller 7- Methods 
animals with the phdnda or snare. Mr. Ball describes their birds. "^ "^ 
procedure as follows : ^ " For peacock, saras crane and 
bustard they have a long series of nooses, each provided 
with a wooden peg and all connected with a long string. 
The tension necessary to keep the nooses open is afforded 
by a slender slip of antelope's horn (very much resembling 
whalebone), which forms the core of the loop. Provided 
with several sets of these nooses, a trained bullock and a 
shield -like cloth screen dyed buff and pierced with 
eye - holes, the bird - catcher sets out for the jungle, and 
on seeing a flock of pea -fowl circles round them under 
cover of the screen and the bullock, which he guides by a 
nose-string. The birds feed on undisturbed, and the man 
rapidly pegs out his long strings of nooses, and when all are 
properly disposed, moves round to the opposite side of the 
birds and shows himself ; when they of course run off, and 
one or more getting their feet in the nooses fall forwards 
and flap on the ground ; the man immediately captures 
them, knowing that if the strain is relaxed the nooses will 
open and permit of the bird's escape. Very cruel practices 
are in vogue with these people with reference to the cap- 
tured birds, in order to keep them alive until a purchaser is 
found. The peacocks have a feather passed through the 
eyelids, by which means they are effectually blinded, while 
in the case of smaller birds both the legs and wings are 
broken." Deer, hares and even pig are also caught by a 
strong rope with running nooses. For smaller birds the 

' Jii>tgle Life in India, pp. 586-587. 



8. Hunt- 
ing with 

appliance is a little rack about four inches high with uprights 
a 'io.w inches apart, between each of which is hung a noose. 
Another appliance mentioned by Mr. Ball is a set of long 
conical bag nets, which are kept open by hooks and provided 
with a pair of folding doors. The Pardhi has also a whistle 
made of deer-horn, with which he can imitate the call of 
the birds. Tree birds are caught with bird-lime as described 
by Sir G. Grierson.^ The Bahelia has several long shafts 
of bamboos called ndl or ndr, which are tied together like 
a fishing rod, the endmost one being covered with bird-lime. 
Concealing himself behind his bamboo screen the Bahelia 
approaches the bird and when near enough strikes and 
secures it with his rod ; or he may spread some grain out at 
a short distance, and as the birds are hopping about over it 
he introduces the pole, giving it a zig-zag movement and 
imitating as far as possible the progress of a snake. Having 
brought the point near one of the birds, which is fascinated by 
its stealthy approach, he suddenly jerks it into its breast and 
then drawing it to him, releases the poor palpitating creature, 
putting it away in his bag, and recommences the same opera- 
tion. This method does not require the use of bird-lime. 

The manner in which the Chita Pardhis use the hunting 
leopard {Felis jubata) for catching deer has often been de- 
scribed." The leopard is caught full-grown by a noose in 
the manner related above. Its neck is first clasped in a 
wooden vice until it is half-strangled, and its feet are then 
bound with ropes and a cap slipped over its head. It is par- 
tially starved for a time, and being always fed by the same 
man, after a month or so it becomes tame and learns to 
know its master. It is then led through villages held by 
ropes on each side to accustom it to the presence of human 
beings. On a hunting party the leopard is carried on a 
cart, hooded, and, being approached from down wind, the 
deer allow the cart to get fairly close to them. The Indian 
antelope or black-buck are the usual quarry, and as these 
frequent cultivated land, they regard country carts without 
.suspicion. The hood is then taken off and the leopard 

• Peasant Life in Bihar, p. 8o. 
^ See Jerdon's Maviinals of India, 

p. 97. The account there given is 
quoted in the Chhindwara District 
Gazetteer, pp. 16-17. 


springs forward at the game with extreme velocity, perhaps 
exceeding that which any other quadruped possesses. The 
accounts given by Jcrdon say that for the moment its speed 
is greater than that of a race-horse. It cannot maintain this 
for more than three or four hundred yards, however, and if 
in that distance the animal has not seized its prey, it relin- 
quishes the pursuit and stalks about in a towering passion. 
The Pardhis say that when it misses the game the leopard 
is as sulky as a human being and sometimes refuses food for 
a couple of days. If successful in the pursuit, it seizes the 
antelope by the throat ; the kepeer then comes up, and cut- 
ting the animal's throat collects some of the blood in the 
wooden ladle with which the leopard is always fed ; this is 
offered to him, and dropping his hold he laps it up eagerly, 
when the hood is cleverly slipped on again. 

The conducting of the cheetah from its cage to the 
chase is by no means an easy matter. The keeper leads 
him along, as he would a large dog, with a chain ; and for 
a time as they scamper over the country the leopard goes 
willingly enough ; but if anything arrests his attention, some 
noise from the forest, some scented trail upon the ground, 
he moves more slowly, throws his head aloft and peers 
savagely round. A few more minutes perhaps and he would 
be unmanageable. The keeper, however, is prepared for the 
emergency. He holds in his left hand a cocoanut shell, 
sprinkled on the inside with salt ; and by means of a handle 
affixed to the shell he puts it at once over the nose of the 
cheetah. The animal licks the salt, loses the scent, forgets 
the object which arrested his attention, and is led quietly 
along again.^ 

For hunting stags, tame stags were formerly used as 9. Decoy 
decoys according to the method described as follows : " We ^^^^^' 
had about a dozen trained stags, all males, with us. These, 
well acquainted with the object for which they were sent 
forward, advanced at a gentle trot over the open ground 
towards the skirt of the wood. They were observed at 
once by the watchers of the herd, and the boldest of the 
wild animals advanced to meet them. Whether the inten- 
tion was to welcome them peacefully or to do battle for their 

' Private Life of an Eastern King, p. 75. 


pasturage I cannot tell ; but in a few minutes the two parties 
were engaged in a furious contest. Head to head, antlers 
to antlers, the tame deer and the wild fought with great fury. 
Each of the tame animals, every one of them large and for- 
midable, was closely engaged in contest with a wild adversary, 
standing chiefly on the defensive, not in any feigned battle 
or mimicry of war but in a hard-fought combat. We now 
made our appearance in the open ground on horseback, 
advancing towards the scene of conflict. The deer on the 
skirts of the wood, seeing us, took to flight ; but those 
actually engaged maintained their ground and continued the 
contest. In the meantime a party of native huntsmen, sent 
for the purpose, gradually drew near to the wild stags, getting 
in between them and the forest. What their object was we 
were not at the time aware ; in truth it was not one that 
we could have approved or encouraged. They made their 
way into the rear of the wild stags, which were still combat- 
ing too fiercely to mind them ; they approached the animals, 
and with a skilful cut of their long knives the poor warriors 
fell hamstrung. We felt pity for the noble animals as we 
saw them fall helplessly on the ground, unable longer to 
continue the contest and pushed down of course by the 
decoy-stags. Once down, they were unable to rise again." ^ 
lo. Hawks. Hawks wcrc also used in a very ingenious fashion to 

prevent duck from flying away when put upon water : " The 
trained hawks were now brought into requisition, and mar- 
vellous it was to see the instinct with which they seconded 
the efforts of their trainers. The ordinary hawking of the 
heron we had at a later period of this expedition ; but the 
use now made of the animal was altogether different, and 
displayed infinitely more sagacity than one would suppose 
likely to be possessed by such an animal. These were 
trained especially for the purpose for which they were now 
employed. A flight of ducks — thousands of birds — were 
enticed upon the water as before by scattering corn over it. 
The hawks were then let fly, four or five of them. We made 
our appearance openly upon the bank, guns in hand, and 
the living swarm of birds rose at once into the air. The 
hawks circled above them, however, in a rapid revolving 

' Private Life of an Eastern King^ pp. 69, 71. 


ilight and they dared not ascend high. Thus was our i^rcy 
retained fluttering in mid-air, until hundreds had paid the 
penalt}- with their Hves. Only picture in your mind's eye 
the circling hawks above gyrating monotonously, the flutter- 
ing captives in mid-air, darting now here, now there to escape, 
and still coward-like huddling together ; and the motley 
group of sportsmen on the bank and you have the whole 
scene before you at once." ' 

For catching crocodile, a method by which as already n. 
stated one group of the Pardhis earn their livelihood, a large ^5^^^°^''^ 
double hook is used, baited with a piece of putrid deer's 
flesh and attached to a hempen rope 70 or 80 feet long. 
When the crocodile has swallowed the hook, twenty or thirty 
persons drag the animal out of the water and it is despatched 
with axes. Crocodiles are hunted only in the months of 
Pus (December), Magh (January) and Chait (March), 
when they are generally fat and yield plenty of oil. The 
flesh is cut into pieces and stewed over a slow fire, when it 
exudes a watery oil. This is strained and sold in bottles 
at a rupee a seer (2 lbs.). It is used as an embrocation for 
rheumatism and for neck galls of cattle. The Pardhis do 
not eat crocodile's flesh. 

A body of Pardhis are sometimes employed by all the 12. Other 
cultivators of a village jointly for the purpose of watching ^jo'^j,"''.^"^ 
the spring crops during the day and keeping black-buck out criminal 
of them. They do this perhaps for two or three months P'^"^'"^^^- 
and receive a fixed quantity of grain. The Takankars are 
regularly employed as village servants in Berar and travel 
about roughening the stones of the household grinding-mills 
when their surfaces have worn smooth. For this they re- 
ceive an annual contribution of grain from each household. 
The caste generally have criminal tendencies and Mr. Sewell 
states, that " The Langoti Pardhis and Takankars are the 
worst offenders. Ordinarily when committing dacoity they 
are armed with sticks and stones only. In digging through 
a wall they generally leave a thin strip at which the leader 
carefully listens before finally bursting through. Then when 
the hole has been made large enough, he strikes a match 
and holding it in front of him so that his features are shielded 
' Private Life of an Eastern King, pp. 39-40. 

VOL. IV 2 B 

370 PARDHI part ii 

has a good survey of the room before entering. ... As a 
rule, they do not divide the property on or near the scene 
of the crime, but take it home. Generally it is carried by 
one of the gang well behind the rest so as to enable it to be 
hidden if the party is challenged." In Bombay they openly 
rob the standing crops, and the landlords stand in such awe 
of them that they secure their goodwill by submitting to a 
regular system of blackmail.^ 

' Bombay Ethnographic Survey, ibide?n. 



1 . General notice of the tribe. 5 . Nuptial cereniofiy. 

2. Exogajnous septs. 6. Widow-marriage ana divorce. 

3. Kinship and marriage. 7. Religion and festivals. 

4. Marriage dance. 8. Disposal of the dead. 

9. Occupation a?td social customs. 

Parja. — A small tribe/ originally an offshoot of the i. General 

Gonds, who reside in the centre and east of the Bastar 
State and the adjoining Jaipur zamlndari of Madras. They 
number about i 3,000 persons in the Central Provinces and 
92,000 in Madras, where they are also known as Poroja. 
The name Parja appears to be derived from the Sanskrit 
Parja, a subject. The following notice of it is taken from 
the Madras Census Report' of 1871 : "The term Parja is, 
as Mr. Carmichael has pointed out, merely a corruption of a 
Sanskrit term signifying a subject ; and it is understood as 
such by the people themselves, who use it in contradistinc- 
tion to a free hillman. Formerly, says a tradition that runs 
through the whole tribe, Rajas and Parjas were brothers, 
but the Rajas took to riding horses or, as the Barenja 
Parjas put it, sitting still, and we became carriers of burdens 
and Parjas. It is quite certain in fact that the term Parja 
is not a tribal denomination, but a class denomination ; and 
it may be fitly rendered by the familiar epithet of ryot. There 
is no doubt, however, that by far the greater number of 
these Parjas are akin to the Khonds of the Ganjam Maliahs. 
They are thrifty, hardworking cultivators, undisturbed by the 
intestinal broils which their cousins in the north engage in, 

' This article is based on papers by Mr. Panda Baijnath and other officers of 
the Bastar State. - By Dr. Cornish. 


notice of 
the tribe. 


and they bear in their breasts an inalienable reverence for their 
soil, the value of v^hich they are rapidly becoming acquainted 
vi'ith. Their ancient rights to these lands are acknowledged 
by colonists from among the Aryans, and when a dispute 
arises about the boundaries of a field possessed by recent 
arrivals a Parja is usually called in to point out the ancient 
landmarks. Gadbas are also represented as indigenous from 
the long lapse of years that they have been in the country, 
but they are by no means of the patriarchal type that 
characterises the Parjas." 

In Bastar the caste are also known as Dhurwa, which 
may be derived from Dhur, the name applied to the body 
of Gonds as opposed to the Raj-Gonds. In Bastar, Dhurwa 
now conveys the sense of a headman of a village. The 
tribe have three divisions, Thakara or Tagara, Peng and 
Mudara, of which only the first is found in Bastar. Thakara 
appears to be a corruption of Thakur, a lord, and the two 
names point to the conclusion that the Parjas were formerly 
dominant in this tract. They themselves have a story, 
somewhat resembling the one quoted above from Madras, 
to the effect that their ancestor was the elder brother of the 
first Raja of Bastar when he lived in Madras, to the south 
of VVarangal. From there he had to flee on account of an 
invasion of the Muhammadans, and was accompanied by 
the goddess Danteshwari, the tutelary deity of the Rajas of 
Bastar. In accordance with the command of the goddess 
the younger brother was considered as the Raja and rode 
on a horse, while the elder went before him carrying their 
baggage. At Bhadrachallam they met the Bhatras, and 
further on the Halbas. The goddess followed them, guiding 
their steps, but she strictly enjoined on the Raja not to look 
behind him so as to see her. But when they came to the 
sands of the rivers Sankani and Dankani, the tinkle of the 
anklets of the goddess could not be heard for the sand. 
The Raja therefore looked behind him to see if she was 
following, on which she said that she could go no more with 
him, but he was to march as far as he could and then settle 
down. The two brothers settled in Bastar, where the 
descendants of the younger became the ruling clan, and 
those of the elder were their servants, the Parjas. The 


story indicates, perhaps, that the Parjas were tlic original 
Gond inhabitants and rulers of the country, and were 
supplanted by a later immigration of the same tribe, who 
reduced them to subjection, and became Raj - Gonds. 
Possibly the first transfer of power was effected by the 
marriage of an immigrant into a Parja Raja's family, as so 
often happened with these old dynasties. The Parjas still 
talk about the Rani of Bastar as their Bohu or ' younger 
brother's wife,' and the custom is probably based on some 
such legend. The Madras account of them as the arbiters 
of boundary disputes points to the same conclusion, as this 
function is invariably assigned to the oldest residents in any 
locality. The Parjas appear to be Gonds and not Khonds. 
Their sept names are Gondi words, and their language is a 
form of Gondi, called after them Parji. Parji has hitherto 
been considered a form of Bhatri, but Sir G. Grierson ^ has 
now classified the latter as a dialect of the Uriya language, 
while Parji remains * A local and very corrupt variation of 
Gondi, considerably mixed with Hindi forms.' While then 
the Parjas, in Bastar at any rate, must be held to be a 
branch of the Gonds, they may have a considerable ad- 
mixture of the Khonds, or other tribes in different localities, 
as the rules of marriage are very loose in this part of the 
country .'- 

The tribe have exogamous totemistic septs, as Bagh a 2. Exo- 
tiger, Kachhim a tortoise, Bokda a goat, Netam a dog, fgl^g""^ 
Gobi a big lizard, Pandki a dove and so on. If a man 
kills accidentally the animal after which his sept is named, 
the earthen cooking-pots of his household are thrown away, 
the clothes are washed, and the house is purified with water 
in which the bark of the mango or j'dviun ^ tree has been 
steeped. This is in sign of mourning, as it is thought that 
such an act will bring misfortune. If a man of the snake 
sept kills a snake accidentally, he places a piece of new yarn 
on his head, praying for forgiveness, and deposits the body 
on an anthill, where snakes are supposed to live. If a man 
of the goat sept eats goat's flesh, it is thought that he will 

* Linguistic Survey, vol. ix. p. 554; were originally one tribe, and the fact 

vol. ii. part ii. pp. 434 ff. that the Parjas have affinities with both 

2 In the article on Gond it is sug- of them appears to support this view. 
gested that the Gonds and Khonds •'' Eugenia janilwlana. 



become blind at once. A Parja will not touch the body of 
his totem-animal when dead, and if he sees any one killing 
or teasing it when alive, he will go away out of sight. It is 
said that a man of the Kachhim sept once found a tortoise 
while on a journey, and leaving it undisturbed, passed on. 
When the tortoise died it was reborn in the man's belly and 
troubled him greatly, and since then every Parja is liable to 
be afflicted in the same way in the side of the abdomen, 
the disease which is produced being in fact enlarged spleen. 
The tortoise told the man that as he had left it lying by the 
road, and had not devoted it to any useful purpose, he was 
afflicted in this way. Consequently, when a man of the 
Kachhim sept finds a tortoise nowadays, he gives it to 
somebody else who can cut it up. The story is interesting 
as a legend of the origin of spleen, but has apparently been 
invented as an excuse for killing the sacred animal. 
3. Kinship Marriage is prohibited in theory between members of 

the same sept. But as the number of septs is rather small, 
the rule is not adhered to, and members of the same sept 
are permitted to marry so long as they do not come from 
the same village ; the original rule of exogamy being 
perhaps thus exemplified. The proposal for a match is 
made by the boy's father, who first offers a cup of liquor to 
the girl's father in the bazar, and subsequently explains his 
errand. If the girl's father, after consulting with his family, 
disapproves of the match, he returns an equal quantity of 
liquor to the boy's father in token of his decision. The girl 
is usually consulted, and asked if she would like to marry 
her suitor, but not much regard is had to her opinion. If she 
dislikes him, however, she usually runs away from him after 
a short interlude of married life. If a girl becomes pregnant 
with a caste-fellow before marriage, he is required to take 
her, and give to the family the presents which he would 
make to them on a regular marriage. The man can sub- 
sequently be properly married to some other woman, but 
the girl cannot be married at all. If a girl is seduced by a 
man outside the caste, she is made over to him. It is 
essential for a man to be properly married at least once, 
and an old bachelor will sometimes go through the form of 
being wedded to his maternal uncle's daughter, even though 


she may be an infant. If no proposal for marriage is made 
for a girl, she is sometimes handed over informally to any 
man who likes to take her, and who is willing to give as 
much for her as the parents would receive for a regular 
marriage. A short time before the wedding, the boy's 
father sends a considerable quantity of rice to the girl's 
father, and on the day before he sends a calf, a pot of 
liquor, fifteen annas worth of copper coin, and a new cloth. 
The bridegroom's expenses are about Rs. 50, and the bride's 
about Rs, 10. 

At weddings the tribe have a dance called Surcha, for 4- Mar- 
which the men wear a particular dress consisting of a long ^'^f^e 
coat, a turban and two or three scarves thrown loosely over 
the shoulders. Strings of little bells are tied about the feet, 
and garlands of beads round the neck ; sometimes men and 
women dance separately, and sometimes both sexes together 
in a long line or a circle. Music is provided by bamboo 
flutes, drums and an iron instrument something like a flute. 
As they dance, songs are sung in the form of question and 
answer between the lines of men and women, usually of a 
somewhat indecent character. The following short specimen 
may be given :■ — 

Man. If you are willing to go with me we will both follow the 
officer's elephant. If I go back without you my heart can have no rest. 

Woman. Who dare take me away from my husband while the 
Company is reigning. My husband will beat me and who will pay him 
the compensation ? 

Man. You had better make up your mind to go with me. I will 
ask the Treasurer for some money and pay it to your husband as 

Woman. Very well, I will make ready some food, and will run away 
with you in the next bright fortnight. 

These dialogues often, it is said, lead to quarrels between 
husband and wife, as the husband cannot rebuke his wife in 
the assembly. Sometimes the women fall in love with men 
in the dance, and afterwards run away with them. 

The marriage takes place at the boy's house, where two 5. Nuptial 
marriage-sheds are made. It is noticeable that the bride on ^^'■s"^°"y- 
going to the bridegroom's house to be married is accom- 
panied only by her female relatives, no man of her family 
being allowed to be with her. This is probably a reminis- 


cence of the old custom of marriage by capture, as in former 
times she was carried off by force, the opposition of her 
male relatives having been quelled. In memory of this the 
men still do not countenance the wedding procession by 
their presence. The bridal couple are made to sit down 
together on a mat, and from three to seven pots of cold 
water are poured over them. About a week after the 
wedding the couple go to a market with their friends, and 
after walking round it they all sit down and drink liquor. 

6. Widow- The remarriage of widows is permitted, and a widow is 
marriage practically Compelled to marry her late husband's younger 
divorce. brother, if he has one. If she persistently refuses to do so, 

in spite of the strongest pressure, her parents turn her out 
of their house. In order to be married the woman goes to 
the man's house with some friends ; they sit together on the 
ground, and the friends apply the tika or sign by touching 
their foreheads with dry rice. A man can divorce his wife 
if she is of bad character, or if she is supposed to be under 
an unfavourable star, or if her children die in infancy. A 
divorced woman can marry again as if she were a widow. 

7. Reii- The Parjas worship the class of divinities of the hills 
and forests usually revered among primitive tribes, as well 
as Danteshvvari, the tutelary goddess of Bastar. On the 
day tjiat sowing begins they offer a fowl to the field, first 
placing some grains of rice before it. If the fowl eats the 
rice they prognosticate a good harvest, and if not the reverse. 
A few members of the tribe belong to the Ramanandi sect, 
and on this account a little extra attention is paid to them. 
If such a one is invited to a feast he is given a wooden seat, 
while others sit on the ground. It is said that a few years 
ago a man became a Kablrpanthi, but he subsequently went 
blind and his son died, and since this event the sect is 
absolutely without adherents. Most villages have a Sirha or 
man who is possessed by the deity, and his advice is taken in 
religious matters, such as the detection of witches. Another 
official is called Medha Gantia or ' The Counter of posts.' 
He appoints the days for weddings, calculating them by 
counting on his fingers, and also fixes auspicious days for the 
construction of a house or for the commencement of sowing. 
It is probable that in former times he kept count of the days 

gion and 


by numbering posts or trees. When rain is wanted the people 
fix a piece of wood into the ground, calling it Bhimsen Deo 
or King of the Clouds, They pour water over it and pray to 
it, asking for rain. Every year, after the crops are harvested, 
they worship the rivers or streams in the village. A snake, 
a jackal, a hare and a dog wagging its ears are unlucky 
objects to see when starting on a journey, and also a dust 
devil blowing along in front. They do not kill wild dogs, 
because they say that tigers avoid the forests where these 
reside, and some of them hold that a tiger on meeting a 
wild dog climbs a tree to get out of his way. Wednesday 
and Thursday are lucky days for starting on a journey, and 
the operations of sowing, reaping and threshing should be 
commenced and completed on one of these da}-s. When a 
man intends to build a house he places a number of sets of 
three grains of rice, one resting on the other two, on the 
ground in different places. Each set is covered by a leaf-cup 
with some earth to hold it down. Next morning the grains 
are inspected, and if the top one has fallen down the site 
is considered to be lucky, as indicating that the earth is 
wishful to bear the burden of a house in this place. A 
house should face to the east or west, and not to the north or 
south. Similarly, the roads leading out of the village should 
run east or west from the starting-point. The principal 
festivals of the Parjas are the Hareli ^ or feast of the new 
vegetation in July, the Nawakhani - or feast of the new rice 
crop in August or September, and the Am Nawakhani or that 
of the new mango crop in April or May. At the feasts the 
new season's crop should be eaten, but if no fresh rice has 
ripened, they touch some of the old grain with a blade of a 
growing rice-plant, and consider that it has become the new 
crop. On these occasions ancestors are worshipped by 
members of the family only inside the house, and offerings of 
the new crops are made to them. 

The dead are invariably buried, the corpse being laid s. Disposal 
in the ground with head to the east and feet to the west. °^^^f 

. dead. 

This is probably the most primitive burial, it being supposed 
that the region of the dead is towards the west, as the setting 

^ Haieli, ///. 'the season of greenness.' 
- Nawakhani, lit. 'the new eating.' 

378 PARJA i'AKT 

sun disappears in that direction. The corpse is therefore 
laid in the grave with the feet to the west ready to start on 
its journey. Members of the tribe who have imbibed Hindu 
ideas now occasionally lay the corpse with the head to the 
north in the direction of the Ganges. Rice-gruel, water and 
a tooth-stick are placed on the grave nightly for some days 
after death. As an interesting parallel instance, near home, 
of the belief that the soul starts on a long journey after 
death, the following passage may be quoted from Mr.'s 
Folklore : " Among the superstitions of Lancashire is one 
which tells us of a lingering belief in a long journey after 
death, when food is necessary to support the soul. A man 
having died of apoplexy at a public dinner near Manchester, 
one of the company was heard to remark, ' Well, poor Joe, 
God rest his soul ! He has at least gone to his long rest 
wi' a belly full o' good meat, and that's some consolation ! ' 
And perhaps a still more remarkable instance is that of the 
woman buried in Curton Church, near Rochester, who directed 
by her will that the coffin was to have a lock and key, the 
key being placed in her dead hand, so that she might be able 
■ to release herself at pleasure." ^ 

After the burial a dead fish is brought on a leaf-plate to 
the mourners, who touch it, and are partly purified. The 
meaning of this rite, if there be any, is not known. After 
the period of mourning, which varies from three to nine days, 
is over, the mourners and their relatives must attend the 
next weekly bazar, and there offer liquor and sweets in the 
name of the dead man, who upon this becomes ranked 
among the ancestors. 
9. Occupa- The Parjas are cultivators, and grow rice and other crops 

tion and jj^ 4^^ Ordinary manner. Many of them are village headmen, 

SOC13.I ^ • I ^ 1 • 1 

customs, and to these the term Dhurwa is more particularly applied. 
The tribe will eat fowls, pig, monkeys, the large lizard, 
field-rats, and bison and wild buffalo, but they do not eat 
carnivorous animals, crocodiles, snakes or jackals. Some 
of them eat beef while others have abjured it, and they will 
not accept the leavings of others. They are not considered 
to be an impure caste. If any man or wornan belonging to 
a higher caste has a liaison with a Parja, and is on that 
> Folklore as a Historical Science (G. L. Gomme), pp. 191, 192. 


account expelled from their own caste, he or she can be 
admitted as a Parja. In their other customs and dress and 
ornaments the tribe resemble the Gonds of Bastar. Women 
are tattooed on the chest and arms with patterns of dots. 
The young men sometimes wear their hair long, and tie it in 
a bunch behind, secured by a strip of cloth. 



1 . The nature and origin of the 4. Marriage and other customs. 

caste. 5. Religion, superstitions and social 

2. Brahjnanical legoids. customs. 

3. Its mixed composition. 6. Occupation. 

7. Criminal tendencies. 

I. The Pasi, Passi/ — A Dravidian occupational caste of northern 

odX^oT"^ India, whose hereditary employment is the tapping of the 
the caste, pahnyra, date and other palm trees for their sap. The 
name is derived from the Sanskrit pdshika, ' One who uses 
a noose,' and the Wmdi pas or pdsa, a noose. It is a curious 
fact that when the first immigrant Parsis from Persia landed 
in Gujarat they took to the occupation of tapping palm 
trees, and the poorer of them still follow it. The resem- 
blance in the name, however, can presumably be nothing 
more than a coincidence. The total strength of the Pasis 
in India is about a million and a half persons, nearly all 
of whom belong to the United Provinces and Bihar. In 
the Central Provinces they number 3500, and reside 
principally in the Jubbulpore and Hoshangabad Districts. 
The caste is now largely occupational, and is connected 
with the Bhars, Arakhs, Khatiks and other Dravidian groups 
of low status. But in the past they seem to have been of 
some importance in Oudh. " All through Oudh," Mr. Crooke 
states, " they have traditions that they were lords of the 
country, and that their kings reigned in the Districts of 
Kheri, Hardoi and Unao. Ramkot, where the town of 
Bangarmau in Unao now stands, is said to have been one 
of their chief strongholds. The last of the Pasi lords of 

* Based principally on Mr. Crook e's article on the caste in his Tribes and 
Castes of (he North- Western Provinces and Oudh. 



Ramkot, Raja Santhar, threw off his allegiance to Kanauj 
and refused to pay tribute. On this Raja Jaichand gave 
his country to the Banaphar heroes Alha and Udal, and 
they attacked and destroyed Ramkot, leaving it the shape- 
less mass of ruins which it now is." Similar traditions 
prevail in other parts of Oudh. It is also recorded that 
the Rajpasis, the highest division of the caste, claim descent 
from Tilokchand, the eponymous hero of the Bais Rajputs. 
It would appear then that the Pasis were a Dravidian tribe 
who held a part of Oudh before it was conquered by the 
Rajputs. As the designation of Pasi is an occupational 
term and is derived from the Sanskrit, it would seem that 
the tribe must formerly have had some other name, or they 
may be an occupational offshoot of the Bhars. In favour 
of this suggestion it may be noted that the Bhars also have 
strong traditions of their former dominance in Oudh. Thus 
Sir C. Elliott states in his Chronicles of Unao ^ that after 
the close of the heroic age, when Ajodhya was held by the 
Surajvansi Rajputs under the great Rama, we find after 
an interval of historic darkness that Ajodhya has been 
destroyed, the SiJrajvansis utterly banished, and a large 
extent of country is being ruled over by aborigines called 
Cheros in the far east, Bhars in the centre and Rajpasis in the 
west. Again, in Kheri the Pasis always claim kindred with 
the Bhars,^ and in Mirzapur ^ the local Pasis represent the 
Bhars as merely a subcaste of their own tribe, though this 
is denied by the Bhars themselves. It seems therefore a 
not improbable hypothesis that the Pasis and perhaps also 
the kindred tribe of Arakhs are functional groups formed 
from the Bhar tribe. For a discussion of the early history 
of this important tribe the reader must be referred to Mr, 
Crooke's excellent article. 

The following tradition is related by the Pasis them- 2. Brah 
selves in Mirzapur and the Central Provinces : One day 
a man was going to kill a number of cows. Parasurama 
was at that time practising austerities in the jungles. Hear- 
ing the cries of the sacred animals he rushed to their 
assistance, but the cow-killer was aided by his friends. So 

^ Quoted in Mr. Crooke's Tribes and Castes, art. Bhar. 
2 Art. Pasi, para. 3. •* Art. Bhar, para. 4. 


382 PASI ■ PART 

Parasurama made five men out of kusha grass and brought 
them to life by letting drops of his perspiration fall upon 
them. Hence arose the name Pasi, from the Hindi paslna, 
sweat. The men thus created rescued the cows. Then 
they returned to Parasurama and asked him to provide 
them with a wife. Just at that moment a Kayasth girl 
was passing by, and her Parasurama seized and made over 
to the Pasis. From them sprang the Kaithwas subcaste. 
Another legend related by Mr. Crooke tells that duiing 
the time Parasurama was incarnate there was an austere 
devotee called Kuphal who was asked by Brahma to demand 
of him a boon, whereupon he requested that he might be 
perfected in the art of thieving. His request was granted, 
and there is a well-known verse regarding the devotions of 
Kuphal, the pith of which is that the mention of the name 
of Kuphal, who received a boon from Brahma, removes all 
fear of thieves ; and the mention of his three wives — Maya 
(illusion), Nidra (sleep), and Mohani (enchantment) — deprives 
thieves of success in their attempts against the property of 
those who repeat these names. Kuphal is apparently the 
progenitor of the caste, and the legend is intended to show 
how the position of the Pasis in the Hindu cosmos or order 
of society according to the caste system has been divinely 
ordained and sanctioned, even to the recognition of theft as 
their hereditary pursuit. 

Whatever their origin may have been the composition 
of the caste is now of a very mixed nature. Several names 
of other castes, as Gujar, Gual or Ahir, Arakh, Khatik, 
Bahelia, Bhil and Bania, are returned as divisions of the 
Pasis in the United Provinces. Like all migratory castes 
they are split into a number of small groups, whose constitu- 
tion is probably not very definite. The principal subcastes 
in the Central Provinces are the Rajpasis or highest class, 
who probably were at one time landowners ; the Kaithwas 
or Kaithmas, supposed to be descended from a Kayasth, as 
already related ; the Tirsulia, who take their name from the 
trisfila or thrce-bladed knife used to pierce the stem of the 
palm tree ; the Bahelia or hunters, and Chiriyamar or 
fowlers ; the Ghudchadha or those who ride on ponies, these 
being probably saises or horse - keepers ; the Khatik or 


butchers and Gujar or graziers ; and the Mangta or beg^^^ars, 
these being the bards and genealogists of the caste, who beg 
from their cHents and take food from their hands ; they are 
looked down on by the other Pasis. 

In the Central Provinces the tribe have now no exoga- 4. Mar- 
mous groups ; they avoid marriage with blood relations as ^'^^^^ ^" 
far back as their memory carries them. At their weddings customs. 
the couple walk round the srdwan or heavy log of wood, 
which is dragged over the fields before sowing to break up 
the larger clods of earth. In the absence of this an ordinary 
plough or harrow will serve as a substitute, though why the 
Pasis should impart a distinctively agricultural implement 
into their marriage ceremony is not clear. Like the Gonds, 
the Pasis celebrate their weddings at the bridegroom's house 
and not at the bride's. Before the wedding the bridegroom's 
mother goes and sits over a well, taking with her seven urad 
cakes ^ and stalks of the plant. The bridegroom walks 
seven times round the well, and at each turn the parapet is 
marked with red and white clay and his mother throws 
one of the cakes and stalks into the well. Finally, the 
mother threatens to throw herself into the well, and the 
bridegroom begs her not to do so, promising that he will 
serve and support her. Divorce and the remarriage of 
widows are freely permitted. Conjugal morality is some- 
what lax, and Mr. Crooke quotes a report from Pertabgarh 
to the effect that if a of a tribe become pregnant 
by a stranger and the child be born in the house of her 
father or husband, it will be accepted as a Pasi of pure 
blood and admitted to all tribal privileges. The bodies of 
adults may be buried or burnt as convenient, but those of 
children or of persons dying from smallpox, cholera or 
snake-bite are always buried. Mourning is observed during 
ten days for a man and nine days for a woman, while 
children who die unmarried are not mourned at all. 

The Pasis worship all the ordinary Hindu deities. All 5. Reii- 
classes of Brahmans will officiate at their marriages and •"'°"' ,. 

o supersli- 

other ceremonies, and do anything for them which does not tions and 
involve touching them or any article in their houses. In customs 
Bengal, Sir H. Risley writes, the employment of Brahmans 
' A pulse of a black colour {Phaseolus radialus). 

384 PASI part 

for the performance of ceremonies appears to be a very 
recent reform for, as a rule, in sacrifices and funeral cere- 
monies, the worshipper's sister's son performs the functions 
of a priest. " Among the Pasis of Monghyr this ancient 
custom, which admits of being plausibly interpreted as a 
survival of female kinship, still prevails generally." The 
social status of the Pasis is low, but they are not regarded 
as impure. At their marriage festivals, Mr. Gayer notes, 
boys are dressed up as girls and made to dance in public, 
but they do not use drums or other musical instruments. 
They breed pigs and cure the bacon obtained from them. 
Marriage questions are decided by the tribal council, which 
is presided over by a chairman {Chaudhri) selected at each 
meeting from among the most influential adult males present. 
The council deals especially with cases of immorality and 
pollution caused by journeys across the black water {kdla 
pdni), which the criminal pursuits of the tribe occasionally 
6. Occupa- The traditional occupation of the Pasis, as already stated, 

is the extraction of the sap of palm trees. But some of 
them are hunters and fowlers like the Pardhis, and like 
them also they make and mend grindstones, while others 
are agriculturists ; and the caste has also strong criminal 
propensities, and includes a number of professional thieves. 
Some are employed in the Nagpur mills and others have 
taken small building contracts. Pasis are generally illiterate 
and in poor circumstances, and are much addicted to drink. 
In climbing^ palm trees to tap them for their juice the 
worker uses a heel-rope, by which his feet are tied closely 
together. At the same time he has a stout rope passing 
round the tree and his body. He leans back against this 
rope and presses the soles of his feet, thus tied together, 
against the tree. He then climbs up the tree by a series of 
hitches or jerks of his back and feet alternately. The juice 
of the palmyra palm {idr) and the date palm (Jihajfir) is 
extracted by the Pasi. The tar trees, Sir H. Risley states," 
are tapped from March to May, and the date palm in the 
cold season. The juice of the former, known as tdri or 

' TJicse sentences are taken from Dr. Grierson's Peasajit Life in Behdr, p. 79. 
'^ Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Pasi. 


II PA TWA 385 

toddy, is used in the manufacture of bread, and an intoxi- 
cating liquor is obtained from it by adding sugar and grains 
of rice. Hindustani drunkards often mix dhatura with the 
toddy to increase its intoxicating properties. The quantity 
of juice extracted from one tree varies from five to ten 
pounds. Date palm tari is less commonly drunk, being 
popularly believed to cause rheumatism, but is extensively 
used in preparing sugar. 

Eighty years ago, when General Sleeman wrote, the 7. Criminal 
Pasis were noted thieves. In his Journey through Oudh ^ he tendencies, 
states that in Oudh there were then supposed to be one 
hundred thousand families of Pasis, who were skilful thieves 
and robbers by profession, and were formerly Thugs and 
poisoners as well. They generally formed the worst part of 
the gangs maintained by refractory landowners, " who keep 
Pasis to fight^for them, as they pay themselves out of the 
plunder and cost little to their employers. They are all 
armed with bows and are very formidable at night. They 
and their refractory employes keep the country in a per- 
petual state of disorder." Mr. Gayer notes - that the 
criminally disposed members of the caste take contracts 
for the watch and sale of mangoes in groves distant 
from habitations, so that their movements will not be seen 
by prying eyes. They also seek employment as roof- 
thatchers, in which capacity they are enabled to ascertain 
which houses contain articles worth stealing. They show 
considerable cunning in disposing of their stolen property. 
The men will go openly in the daytime to the receiver and 
acquaint him with the fact that they have property to dis- 
pose of; the receiver goes to the bazar, and the women 
come to him with grass for sale. They sell the grass to the 
receiver, and then accompany him home with it and the 
stolen property, which is artfully concealed in it. 

Patwa, Patwi, Patra, Ilakeband. — The occupational 
caste of weavers of fancy silk braid and thread. In 191 i 
the Patwas numbered nearly 6000 persons in the Central 

1 The following passage is taken and Hardoi Settlement Reports. 
from Mr. Crooke's article on Pasi, and - Lectures on Criminal Tribes of the 

includes quotations from the Sitaptir Central Provinces. 

VOL. IV 2 C 


Provinces, being returned principally from the Narsinghpur, 
Raipur, Saugor, Jubbulpore and Hoshangabad Districts. 
About 800 were resident in Berar. The name is derived 
from the Sanskrit pata, woven cloth, or Hindi pdt^ silk. 
The principal subcastes of the Patwas are the Naraina ; the 
Kanaujia, also known as Chhipi, because they sew marriage 
robes ; the Deobansi or ' descendants of a god,' who sell lac 
and glass bangles ; the Lakhera, who prepare lac bangles ; 
the Kachera, who make glass bangles ; and others. Three 
of the above groups are thus functional in character. They 
have also Rajput and Kayastha subcastes, who may consist 
of refugees from those castes received into the Patwa com- 
munity. In the Central Provinces the Patwas and Lakheras 
are in many localities considered to be the same caste, as 
they both deal in lac and sell articles made of it ; and the 
account of the occupations of the Lakhera caste also applies 
largely to the Patwas. The exogamous groups of the caste 
are named after villages, or titles or nicknames borne by 
the reputed founder of the group. They indicate that the 
Patwas of the Central Provinces are generally descended 
from immigrants from northern India. The Patwa usually 
purchases silk and colours it himself. He makes silk strings 
for pyjamas and coats, armlets and other articles. Among 
these are the silk threads called rdkhis, used on the Rak- 
shabandhan festival,^ when the Brahmans go round in the 
morning tying them on to the wrists of all Hindus as a 
protection against evil spirits. For this the Brahman 
receives a present of one or two pice. The rdkhi is made 
of pieces of raw silk fibre twisted together, with a knot at 
one end and a loop at the other. It goes round the wrist, 
and the knot is passed through the loop. Sisters also tie it 
round their brothers' wrists and are given a present. The 
Patwas make the phundri threads for tying up the hair of 
women, whether of silk or cotton, and various threads used 
as amulets, such as the j'anjira, worn by men round the neck, 
and the ganda or wizard's thread, which is tied round the 
arm after incantations have been said over it ; and the 

1 The word Rakshabandhan is said 'binding the devil,' is perhaps in- 
to mean literally, ' the bond of protec- correct, 
tion.' Another suggested derivation, 


necklets of silk or cotton thread bound with thin silver wire 
which the Hindus wear at Anant Chaudas, a sort of All 
Saints' Day, when all the gods are worshipped. In this 
various knots are made by the Brahmans, and in each a 
number of deities are tied up to exert their beneficent 
influence for the wearer of the thread. These are the bands 
which Hindus commonly wear on their necks. The Patwas 
thread necklaces of gold and jewels on silk thread, and also 
make the strings of cowries, slung on pack-thread, which are 
tied round the necks of bullocks when they race on the 
Pola day, and on ponies, probably as a charm. After a 
child is born in the family of one of their clients, the Patwas 
make tassels of cotton and hemp thread coloured red, green 
and yellow, and hang them to the centre-beam of the house 
and the top of the child's cradle, and for this they get a 
present, which from a rich man may be as much as ten 
rupees. The sacred thread proper is usually made by 
Brahmans in the Central Provinces. Some of the Patwas 
wander about hawking their wares from village to village. 
Besides the silk threads they sell the tiklis or large spangles 
which women wear on their foreheads, lac bangles and balls 
of henna, and the large necklaces of lac beads covered with 
tinsel of various colours which are worn in Chhattisgarh. A 
Patwa must not rear the tasar silkworm nor boil the cocoons 
on pain of expulsion from caste. 



1. Origin of the natne. 5. Return from aii expedition. 

2. Rise of the Pinddris. 6. Suppression of the Pinddris. 

3. Their strength atid sphere of Death of Chitu. 

ope7-ations. 7. Character of the Pinddris. 

4. Pi?idd7'i expeditions and 8. The existing Piiiddris. 

methods. 9. Attractions of a Pinddri's life. 

I. Origin Pindari, Pindara, Pendhari.^ — The well-known pro- 
^^^"^^ fessional class of freebooters, whose descendants now form a 

name. ' 

small cultivating caste. In the Central Provinces they num- 
bered about 150 persons in 1 9 1 1 , while there are about 1 0,000 
in India. They are mainly Muhammadans but include some 
Hindus. The Pindaris of the Central Provinces are for the 
most part the descendants of Gonds, Korkus and Bhils whose 
children were carried off in the course of raids, circumcised, 
and brought up to follow the profession of a Pindari. 
When the bands were dispersed many of them returned to 
their native villages and settled down. Malcolm considered 
that the name Pindari was derived from pinda, an intoxicating 
drink, and was given to them on account of their dissolute 
habits. He adds that Karim Khan, a famous Pindari leader, 
had never heard of any other reason for the name, and Major 
Henley had the etymology confirmed by the most intelligent 
of the Pindaris of whom he inquired.^ In support of this 
may be adduced the name of Bhangi, given to the sweeper 
caste on account of their drinking bhang or hemp. Wilson 

1 The historical account of the notes on the modern Pindaris have 

Pindaris is compiled from Malcolm's been furnished by Mr. Hlra Lai, and 

Memoir of Centi-al India, Grant-Duffs Mr. Waman Rustom Mandloi, Naib- 

History of the ATardthas, and Prinscp's Tahsildar, liarda. 

Transactions in //idia {182$). Some ^ Metnoir of Central India, \. \). ^^,1. 


again held the most probable derivation to be from the 
Marathi pendlia, in the sense of a bundle of rice- straw, and 
hara one who takes, because the name was originally applied 
to horsemen who hung on to an army and were employed 
in collecting forage. The fact that the existing Findaris 
are herdsmen and tenders of buffaloes and thus might well 
have been employed for the collection of forage may be 
considered somewhat to favour the above view ; but the 
authors of Hobson-Jobson, after citing these derivations, 
continue : " We cannot think any of the etymologies very 
satisfactory. We venture another as a plausible sugges- 
tion merely. Both pitid-parna in Hindi and pindas-basnen 
in Marathi signify ' to follow,' the latter being defined 
as ' to stick closely ; to follow to the death ; used of 
the adherence of a disagreeable fellow.' Such phrases 
could apply to these hangers-on of an army in the field look- 
ing out for prey." Mr. W. Irvine^ has suggested that the 
word comes from a place or region called Pandhar, which is 
referred -to by native historians and seems to have been 
situated between Burhanpur and Handia on the Nerbudda ; 
and states that there is good evidence to prove that a large 
number of Pindaris were settled in this part of the country. 
Mr. D. Chisholm reports from Nimar that " Pandhar or 
Pandhar is the name given to a stream which rises in the 
Gularghat hills of the AsTr range and flows after a very 
circuitous course into the Masak river by Mandeva. The 
name signifies five, as it is joined by four other small 
streams. The Asir hills were the haunts of the Pindaris, 
and the country about these, especially by the banks of the 
Pandhar, is very wild ; but it is not commonly known that 
the Pindaris derived their name from this stream." And as 
the Pindaris are first heard of as hangers-on of the Maratha 
armies in the Deccan prior to A.D. 1700, it seems unlikely also 
that their name can be taken from a place in the Nimar District, 
where it is not recorded that they were settled before 1794. 
Nor does the Pandhar itself seem sufficiently important to have 
given a name to the whole body of freebooters. Malcolm's or 
Wilson's derivations are perhaps on the whole the most prob- 
able. Prinsep writes : " Pindara seems to have the same 

^ Indian Antiquary, 1900. 



reference to Pandour that Kuzak has to Cossack. The latter 
word is of Turkish origin but is commonly used to express 
a mounted robber in Hindustan." Though the Pandours were 
the predatory light cavalry of the Austrian army, and had 
considerable resemblance to the Pindaris, it does not seem 
possible to suppose that there is any connection between the 
two words. The Pendra zamindari in Bilaspur is named 
after the Pindaris, the dense forests of the Rewah plateau 
which includes Pendra having been one of their favourite 
asylums of refuge. 
2. Rise The Pindari bands appear to have come into existence 

°^*5. durine: the wars of the late Muhammadan dynasties in the 

Pindaris. ^ •' 

Deccan, and in the latter part of the seventeenth century 
they attached themselves to the Marathas in their revolt 
against Aurangzeb. The first mention of the name occurs 
at this time. During and after the Maratha wars many of 
the Pindari leaders obtained grants in Central India from 
Sindhia and Holkar, and were divided into two parties owing 
a nominal allegiance to these princes and designated as the 
Sindhia Shahi and Holkar Shahi. In the period of chaos 
which reigned at this time outside British territories their raids 
in all directions attended by the most savage atrocities became 
more and more intolerable. These outrages extended from 
Bundelkhand to Cuddapah south of Madras and from Orissa 
to Gujarat. 

When attached to the Maratha armies, Malcolm states, 
the Pindaris always camped separately and were not 
permitted to plunder in the Maratha territories ; they were 
given an allowance averaging four annas each a day, and 
further supported themselves by employing their small horses 
and bullocks in carrying grain, forage and wood, for which 
articles the Pindari bazar was the great mart. When let 
loose to pillage, which v/as always the case some days before 
the army entered an enemy's country, all allowances stopped ; 
no restraint whatever was put upon these freebooters till 
the campaign was over, when the Maratha commander, if he 
had the power, generally seized the Pindari chiefs or sur- 
rounded their camps and forced them to yield up the greater 
part of their booty. A knowledge of this practice led the 
Pindaris to redouble their excesses, that they might be 


able to satisfy without ruin the expected rapacity of their 

In 1794, Grant-Duff writes, Sindhia assigned some lands 
to the Pindaris near the banks of the Nerbudda, which they 
soon extended by conquests from the Grassias or original inde- 
pendent landholders in their neighbourhood. Their principal 
leaders at that time were two brothers named Hiru and.Burun, 
who are said to have been put to death for their aggressions 
on the territory of Sindhia and of Raghuji Bhonsla. The sons 
of Hiru and Burun became Pindari chiefs ; but Karim Khan, a 
Pindara who had acquired great booty at the plunder of the 
Nizam's troops after the battle of Hurdla, and was distinguished 
by superior cunning and enterprise, was the principal leader 
of this refuse of the Maratha armies. KarIm got the district of 
Shujahalpur from Umar Khan which, with some additions, 
was afterwards confirmed to him by Sindhia. During the war 
of 1803 and the subsequent disturbed state of the country 
KarIm contrived to obtain possession of several districts in 
Malwa belonging to Sindhia's jagirdars ; and his land revenue 
at one time is said to have amounted to fifteen lakhs of rupees 
a year. He also wrested some territory from the Nawab of 
Bhopal on which he built a fort as a place of security for his 
family and of deposit for his plunder. Karim was originally 
a Sindhia Shahi, but like most of the Pindaris, except about 
5000 of the Holkar Shahis who remained faithful, he changed 
sides or plundered his m.aster whenever it suited his con- 
venience, which was as often as he found an opportunity, 
Sindhia, jealous of his encroachments, on pretence of lending 
him some gems inveigled him to an interview, made him 
prisoner, plundered his camp, recovered the usurped districts 
and lodged Karim in the fort of Gwalior. 

A number of leaders started up after the confinement of 
Karim, of whom Chitu, Dost Muhammad, Namdar Khan 
and Sheikh Dullah became the most conspicuous. They 
associated themselves with Amir Khan in 1809 during his 
expedition to Berar ; and in 18 10, when Karim Khan pur- 
chased his release from Gwalior, they assembled under that 
leader a body of 25,000 horse and some battalions of newly 
raised infantry with which they again proposed to invade 
Berar ; but Chitu, always jealous of Karlm's ascendency, 



was detached by Raghuji Bhonsla from the alHance, and 
afterwards co-operated with Sindhia in attacking him ; Karim 
was in consequence driven to seek an asylum with his old 
patron Amir Khan, but by the influence of Sindhia Amir 
Khan kept him in a state of confinement until 1816. 

When the Marathas ceased to spread themselves over 
India, the Pindaris who had attended their armies were obliged 
to plunder the territories of their former protectors for sub- 
sistence. To the unemployed soldiery of India, particularly 
to the Muhammadans, the life of a Pindara had many 
allurements ; but the Maratha horsemen who possessed 
hereditary rights or had any pretensions to respectability did 
not readily join them. One of the above leaders, Sheikh 
Dullah or Abdullah, apparently became a dacoit after the 
Pindaris had been dispersed, and he is still remembered in 
Hoshangabad and Nimar in the following saying : 

Niche zamm mcr tipar Allah, 

Aiir bich men pliiren Sheikh Dullah, 

or ' God is above and the earth beneath, and Sheikh Dullah 

ranges at his will between.' 
3. Their In I 8 1 4, Prinsep states,^ the actual military force at the 

strength disposal of the Pindaris amounted to 40,000 horse, inclusive 

and sphere ^,-r,,_ ,1 ii 

of opera- of the Pathans, who though more orderly and better 
tions. disciplined than the Pindaris of the Nerbudda, possessed the 

same character and were similarly circumstanced in every 
respect, supporting themselves entirely by depredations when- 
ever they could practise them. Their number would be 
doubled were we to add the remainder of Holkar's troops 
of the irregular kind, which were daily deserting the service 
of a falling house in order to engage in the more profitable 
career of predatory enterprise ; and the loose cavalry 
establishments of Sindhia and the Bhonsla, which were 
bound by no ties but those of present entertainment, and 
were always in great arrears of pay. The presence of this 
force in the centre of India and able to threaten each of the 
three Presidencies imposed the most extensive annual pre- 
cautions for defence, in spite of which the territories of our 
allies were continually overrun. On two occasions, once 

' 'I'ransactioiis in India, 1813-23, by H. T. Prinsep. 


when they entered Gujarat in 1 808-9 'i"<J again in 18 12 
when the Bengal provinces of Mirzapur and Shahabad were 
devastated, they penetrated into our immediate territories. 
Grant-Duff records that in one raid on the coast from 
MasuHpatam northward they in ten days plundered 339 
villages, burning many, killing and wounding 682 persons, 
torturing 3600 and carrying off or destroying property to 
the amount of two lakhs and a half. Indeed their reputa- 
tion was such that the mere rumour of an incursion caused 
a regular panic at Madras in 18 16, of which General Hislop 
gives an amusing account : ^ "In the middle of this year the 
troops composing the garrison of Fort St. George were 
moved out and encamped on the island outside Black Town 
wall. This imprudent step was taken, as was affirmed, to 
be in readiness to meet the Pindaris, who were reported to 
be on their road to Madras, although it was well known 
that not half a dozen of them were at that time within 200 
miles of the place. The native inhabitants of all classes 
throughout Madras and its vicinity were in the utmost 
alarm, and looked for places of retreat and security for their 
property. It brought on Madras all the distresses in imagina- 
tion of Hyder All's invasion. It was about this period that 
an idle rumour reached Madras of the arrival of the Pindaris 
at the Mount ; all was uproar, flight and despair to the 
walls of Madras. This alarm originated in a few Dhobis 
and grass-cutters of the artillery having mounted their 
tattus and, in mock imitation of the Pindaris, galloped about 
and played with long bamboos in their hands in the vicinity 
of the Mount. The effect was such, however, that many of 
the civil servants and inhabitants of the Mount Road packed 
up and moved to the Fort for protection. Troopers, 
messengers, etc., were seen galloping to the Government 
House and thence to the different public authorities. Such 
was the alarm in the Government House that on the after- 
noon of that day an old officer, anxious to offer some 
advice to the Governor, rode smartly to the Government 
gardens, and on reaching the entrance observed the younger 
son of the Governor running with all possible speed into the 
house ; who having got to a place of security ventured to 

1 Mardtha and Pinddri Campaigns. 

394 PINDAR I part 

look back and then discovered in the old officer a face which 
he had before seen ; when turning back again he exclaimed, 
' Upon my word, sir, I was so frightened I took you for 
a Pindari.' " 
4. Pindari A Pindari expedition ^ usually started at the close of 

and^ '"°'" ^^ rains, as soon as the rivers became fordable after the 
methods. Dasahra festival in October, Their horses were then shod, 
having previously been carefully trained to prepare them for 
long marches and hard work. A leader of tried courage 
having been chosen as Luhbaria, all who were so inclined 
set forth on a foray, or Luhbar as it was called in the Pindari 
nomenclature, the strength of the party often amounting to 
several thousands. In every thousand Pindaris about 400 
were tolerably well mounted and armed ; of this number 
about every fifteenth man carried a matchlock, but their 
favourite weapon was the ordinary bamboo spear of the 
Marathas, from 12 to 18 feet long. Of the remaining 
600 two-thirds were usually common Lootais or plunderers, 
indifferently mounted and armed with every variety of 
weapon ; and the rest slaves, attendants and camp- 
followers, mounted on tattus or wild ponies and keeping up 
with the Luhbar in the best manner they could. They were 
encumbered neither by tents nor baggage ; each horseman 
carried a few cakes of bread for his own subsistence and 
some feeds of grain for his horse. They advanced at the 
rapid rate of forty or fifty miles a day, neither turning to 
the right nor to the left till they arrived at their place of 
destination. They then divided, and made a sweep of all 
the cattle and property they could find ; committing at the 
same time the most horrid atrocities and destroying what 
they could not carry away. They trusted to the secrecy 
and suddenness of the irruption for avoiding those who 
guarded the frontiers of the countries they invaded ; and 
before a force could be brought against them they were on 
their return. Their chief strength lay in their being in- 
tangible. If pursued they made marches of extraordinary 
length, sometimes upwards of sixty miles, by roads almost 
impracticable for regular troops. If overtaken they dispersed 
and reassembled at an appointed rendezvous ; if followed to 

' The above is compiled from the accounts given by Piinsep and iMalcoJm. 


the country from which they issued they broke into small 
parties. The cruelties they perpetrated were beyond belief. 
As it was impossible for them to remain more than a few 
hours on the same spot the utmost despatch was necessary 
in rifling any towns or villages into which they could force 
an entrance ; every one whose appearance indicated the prob- 
ability of his possessing money was immediately put to the 
most horrid torture till he either pointed out his hoard or 
died under the infliction. Nothing was safe from the 
pursuit of Pindari lust or avarice ; it was their common 
practice to burn and destroy what they could not carry 
away ; and in the wantonness of barbarity to ravish and 
murder women and children under the eyes of their husbands 
and parents. The ordinary modes of torture inflicted by 
these miscreants were to apply red-hot irons to the soles of 
the feet ; or to throw the victim on the ground and place 
a plank or beam across his chest on which two men pressed 
with their whole weight ; and to throw oil on the clothes 
and set fire to them, or tie wisps of rag soaked in oil to 
the ends of all the victim's fingers and set fire to these. 
Another favourite method was to put hot ashes into a horse- 
bag, which they tied over a man's mouth and nostrils and 
thumped him on the back until he inhaled the ashes. The 
effect on the lungs of the sufferer was such that few long 
survived the operation. 

The return of the Pindaris from an expedition presented 5- Return 
at one view their character and habits. When they recrossed expedition. 
the Nerbudda and reached their homes their camp became 
like a fair. After the claims of the chief of the territory 
(whose right was a fourth part of the booty, but who gener- 
ally compounded for one or two valuable articles) had been 
satisfied, the usual share paid to their Luhbaria, or chosen 
leader for the expedition, and all debts to merchants and 
others who had made advances discharged, the plunder of 
each man was exposed for sale ; traders from every part 
came to make cheap bargains ; and while the women were 
busy in disposing of their husbands' property, the men, who 
were on such occasions certain of visits from all their friends, 
were engaged in hearing music, seeing dancers and drolls, 
and in drinking. This life of debauchery and excess lasted 

396 PINDARI part 

till their money was gone ; they were then compelled to 
look for new scenes of rapine, or, if the season was favour- 
able, were supported by their chiefs, or by loans at high 
interest from merchants who lived in their camps, many of 
whom amassed large fortunes. This worst part of the late 
population of Central India is, as a separate community, 
now extinct.^ 
6. Suppres- ^^^ result of the Pindari raids was that Central India 

sion of the was being rapidly reduced to the condition of a desert, and 
Death of the peasants, unable to support themselves on the land, had 
Chitu. no option but to join the robber bands or starve. It was 
not until 1 8 1 7 that Lord Hastings obtained authority from 
home to take regular measures for their repression ; and at 
the same time he also forced or persuaded the principal 
chiefs of Central India to act vigorously in concert with 
him. When these were put into operation and the principal 
routes from Central India occupied by British detachments, 
the Pindaris were completely broken up and scattered in 
the course of a single campaign. They made no stand 
against regular troops, and their bands, unable to escape 
from the ring of forces drawn round them, were rapidly 
dispersed over the country. The people eagerly plundered 
and seized them in revenge for the wrongs long suffered at 
their - hands, and the Bhil Grassias or border landholders 
gladly carried out the instructions to hunt them down. On 
one occasion a native havildar with only thirty -four men 
attacked and put a large body of them to flight. The 
principal chiefs, reduced to the condition of hunted outlaws 
in the jungles, soon accepted the promise of their lives, and 
on surrendering were either settled on a grant of land or 
kept in confinement. The well-known leader Chitu joined 
Apa Sahib, who had then escaped from Nagpur and was in 
hiding in the Pachmarhi hills. Being expelled from there 
in February 1 8 1 9 he proceeded to the fort of Asirgarh in 
Nimar, but was refused admittance by Sindhia's command- 
ant. He sought shelter in the neighbouring jungle, and on 
horseback and alone attempted to penetrate a thick cover 
known to be infested with tigers. He was missed for some 
days afterwards and no one knew what had become of him. 

^ Tliat is when Malcohii wrote his Memoir-. 


His horse was at last discovered grazing near the margin of 
the forest, saddled and bridled, and exactly in the state in 
which it was when Chitu had last been seen upon it. Upon 
search a bag of Rs. 250 was found in the saddle ; and 
several seal rings with some letters of Apa Sahib, promising 
future reward, served more completely to fix the identity of 
the horse's late master. These circumstances, combined 
with the known resort of tigers to the spot, induced a search 
for the body, when at no great distance some clothes clotted 
with blood, and farther on fragments of bones, and at 
last the Pindari's head entire with features in a state to 
be recognised, were successively discovered. The chief's 
mangled remains were given over to his son for interment, 
and the miserable fate of one who so shortly before had 
ridden at the head of twenty thousand horse gave an awful 
lesson of the uncertainty of fortune and drew pity even 
from those who had been victims of his barbarity when 

The Pindaris, as might be expected, were recruited from 7. Char- 
all classes and castes, and though many became Muham- p^lfJads^ ^*^ 
madans the Hindus preserved the usages of their respective 
castes. Most of the Hindu men belonged to the Ladul or 
grass-cutter class, and their occupation was to bring grass 
and firewood to the camps. " Those born in the Durrahs or 
camps," Malcolm states,"' " appear to have been ignorant in 
a degree almost beyond belief and were in the same ratio 
superstitious. The women of almost all the Muhammadan 
Pindaris dressed like Hindus and worshipped Hindu deities. 
From accompanying their husbands in most of their excur- 
sions they became liardy and masculine ; they were usually 
mounted on small horses or camels, and were more dreaded 
by the villagers than the men, whom they exceeded in 
cruelty and rapacity." Colonel Tod notes that the Pindaris, 
like other Indian robbers, were devout in the observance of 
their religion : 

" A short distance to the west of the Regent's (Kotah) 
camp is the Pindari-ka-chhaoni, where the sons of Karim 
Khan, the chief leader of those hordes, resided ; for in 

' This account is copied from Prinsep's Transactions. 
'^ Memoir, ii. p. 177. 



8. The 

9. Attrac- 
tions of a 

those days of strife the old Regent would have allied him- 
self with Satan, if he had led a horde of plunderers. I was 
greatly amused to see in this camp the commencement of 
an Id-Gah or place of prayer ; for the villains, while they 
robbed and murdered even defenceless women, prayed five 
times a day ! " ^ 

While the freebooting Pindaris had no regular caste 
organisation, their descendants have now become more or 
less of a caste in accordance with the usual tendency of a 
distinctive occupation, producing a difference in status, to 
form a fresh caste. The existing Pindaris in the Central 
Provinces are both Muhammadans and Hindus, the Muham- 
madans, as already stated, having been originally the chil- 
dren of Hindus who were kidnapped and converted. It is 
one of the very few merits of the Pindaris that they did not 
sell their captives to slavery. Their numerous prisoners of 
all ages and both sexes were employed as servants, made 
over to the chiefs or held to ransom from their relatives, but 
the Pindaris did not carry on like the Banjaras a traffic in 
slaves.^ The Muhammadan Pindaris were said some time 
ago to have no religion, but with the diffusion of knowledge 
they have now adopted the rites of Islam and observe its 
rules and restrictions. In Bhandara the Hindu Pindaris are 
Garoris or Gowaris. They say that the ancestors of the 
Pindaris and Gowaris were two brothers, the business of 
the Pindari brother being to tend buffaloes and that of 
the Gowari brother to herd cows. These Pindaris will beg 
from the owners of buffaloes for the above reason. They 
revere the dog and will not kill it, and also worship 
snakes and tigers, believing that these animals never do 
them injury. They carry their dead to the grave in a 
sitting posture, seated in a jlioli or wallet, and bury them 
in the same position. They wear their beards and do 
not shave. Some of these Pindaris are personal servants, 
others cultivators and labourers, and others snake-charmers 
and jugglers. 

Tiie freebooting life of the Pindaris, unmitigated 
scoundrels though they were, no doubt had great charms, 
and must often have been recalled with regret by those who 

1 Rajasthdn, ii. p. 674. ''' Malcolm, ii. p. 177. 


settled down to the quiet humdrum existence of a cultivator. 
This feeling has been admirably depicted in Sir Alfred 
Lyall's well-known poem, of which it will be permissible to 
quote a short extract : 

When I rode a Dekhani charger with the saddle-cloth gold-laced, 

And a Persian sword and a twelve-foot spear and a pistol at my waist. 

It's many a year gone by now ; and yet I often dream 

Of a long dark march to the Jumna, of splashing across the stream. 

Of the waning moon on the water and the spears in the dim starlight 

As I rode in front of my mother ^ and wondered at all the sight. 

Then the streak of the pearly dawn — the flash of a sentinel's gun, 

The gallop and glint of horsemen who wheeled in the level sun. 

The shots in the clear still morning, the white smoke's eddying wreath. 

Is this the same land that I live in, the dull dank air that I breathe ? 

And if I were forty years younger, with my life before me to choose, 

I wouldn't be lectured by Kafirs or bullied by fat Hindoos ; 

But I'd go to some far-off country where Musalmans still are men, 

Or take to the jungle like Chetoo, and die in the tiger's den. 

Prabhu, Parbhu. — The Maratha caste of clerks, i. Histori- 
accountants and patwaris corresponding to the Kayasths. " "o^ice. 
They numbered about 1400 persons in the southern Dis- 
tricts of the Central Provinces and Berar in 191 1. The 
Prabhus, like the Kayasths, claim to be descendants of a 
child of Chandra Sena, a Kshatriya king and himself a son 
of Arjun, one of the five Pandava brothers. Chandra Sena 
was slain by Parasurama, the Brahman destroyer of the 
Kshatriyas, but the child was saved by a Rishi, who 
promised that he should be brought up as a clerk. The 
boy was named Somraj and was married to the daughter of 
Chitra Gupta, the recorder of the dead. The caste thus 
claim Kshatriya origin. The name Prabhu signifies ' lord,' 
but the Brahmans pretend that the real name of the caste 
was Parbhu, meaning one of irregular birth. The Prabhus 
say that Parbhu is a colloquial corruption used by the un- 
educated. The gotras of the Prabhus are eponymous, the 
names being the same as those of Brahmans. In the 
Central Provinces many of them have the surname of 
Chitnavis or Secretary. Child -marriage is in vogue and 
widow- remarriage is forbidden. The wedding ceremony 
resembles that of the Brahmans. 

* The Pindari's childhood is recalled here, vide poem. 


In his Description of a Prabhu viarriage ^ Rai Bahadur 
B. A. Gupte shows how the old customs are being broken 
through among the educated classes under the influence of 
modern ideas. Marriages are no longer arranged without 
regard to the wishes of the couple, which are thus ascer- 
tained : " The next step ^ is to find out the inclination of 
the hero of the tale. His friends and equals do that easily- 
enough. They begin talking of the family and the girl, 
and are soon able to fathom his mind. They leave on his 
desk all the photographs of the girls offered and watch his 
movements. If he is sensible he quietly drops or returns 
all the likenesses except the one he prefers, and keeps this 
in his drawer. He dare not display it, for it is immodest to 
do so. The news of the approval by the boy soon reaches 
the parents of the girl." Similarly in her case : " The girl 
has no direct voice, but her likes and dislikes are carefully 
fathomed through her girl friends. If she says, 'Why is 
papa in such a hurry to get rid of me,' or turns her face 
and goes away as soon as the proposed family is mentioned, 
a sensible father drops the case and turns his attention to 
some other boy. This is the direct result of higher educa- 
tion under British rule, but among the masses the girl has 
absolutely no voice, and the boy has very little unless he 
revolts and disobediently declines to accept a girl already 
selected." Similarly the educated Prabhus are beginning to 
dispense with the astrologer's calculations showing the 
agreement of the horoscopes of the couple, which are too 
often made a cloak for the extortion of large presents. " It 
very often happens that everything is amicably settled 
except the greed of the priest, and he manages to find out 
some disagreement between the horoscopes of the marriage- 
able parties to vent his anger. This trick has been 
sufficiently exposed, and the educated portion of this ultra- 
literary caste have in most cases discarded horoscopes and 
planetary conjunctions altogether. Under these restrictions 
the only thing the council of astrologers have to do is to 
draw up two documents giving diagrams based on the 
names of the parties — for names are presumably selected 

1 Pamphlet published in connection with the Ethnographic Survey. 
^ A Prablni Marriage^ p. 3 et seq. 


according to the conjunctions of the stars at birth. But 
they are often not, and depend on the Hking of the father 
for a family god, a mythological hero, a patron or a cele- 
brated/ancestor in the case of the boy. In that of the girl 
the favourite deity or a character in the most recent fable or 
drama the father has just read." 

According to custom the bridegroom should go to the 
bride's house to be married, but if it is more convenient to 
have the wedding at the bridegroom's town, the bride goes 
there to a temporary house taken by her father,^ and then 
the bridegroom proceeds to a temple with his party and is 
welcomed as if he had arrived on completion of a journey. 
Mr. Gupte thus describes the reception of the bride when 
she has come to be married : " But there comes an urgent 
telegram. The bride and her mother are expected and in- 
formation is given to the bridegroom's father. In all haste 
preparations are made to give her a grand and suitable 
reception. Oh, the flutter among the girls assembled in the 
house of the bridegroom from all quarters. Every one is 
dressed in her best and is trying to be the foremost in 
welcoming the new bride, the Goddess Lakshmi. The 
numerous maidservants of the house want to prostrate 
themselves before their future queen on the Suna or border- 
land of the city, which is of course the railway station. 
Musicians have been already despatched and the platform 
is full of gaily dressed girls. The train arrives, the party 
assemble at the waiting-room, a maidservant waves rice and 
water to 'take off' the effects of evil eyes and they start 
amid admiring eyes of the passengers and onlookers. As 
soon as the bride reaches her father's temporary residence 
another girl waves rice and water and throws it away. The 
girls of the bridegroom's house run home and come back 
again with a Kalash (water-pot) full of water, with its 
mouth covered with mango-leaves and topped over with a 
cocoanut and a large tray of sugar. This is called SakJiar 
pdni, sugar and water, the first to wash the mouth with and 
the second to sweeten it. The girls have by this time all 
gathered round the bride and are busy cheering her up with 
encouraging remarks : ' Oh, she is a Rati, the goddess of 
beauty,' says one, and another, ' How delicate,' ' What a fine 
VOL. IV 2 t) 


nose ' from a third, and ' Look at her eyes ' from a fourth. 
All complimentary and comforting. ' We are glad it is our 
house you are coming to,' says a sister-in-law in prospect. 
' We are happy you are going to be our indlikin (mistress)/ 
adds a maidservant. As soon as the elder ladies have 
completed their courteous inquiries pdn-supdri and attar are 
distributed and the party returns home. But on arrival 
the girls gather round the bridegroom to tease him. ' Oh, 
you Sudharak (reformer),' ' Oh, you Sahib (European), you 
have selected your bride.' ' You have seen her before 
marriage. You have broken the rule of the society. You 
ought to be excommunicated.' * But,' says another, ' he 
will now have no time to speak to us. His Rati (goddess 
of beauty) and he ! The Sahib and the Memsahib ! We 
shall all be forgotten now. Who cares for sisters and 
cousins in these days of civilisation ? ' But all these little 
jokes of the little girls are meant as congratulations to him 
for having secured a good girl." At a wedding among the 
highest families such as is described here, the bridegroom 
is presented with drinking cups and plates, trays for hold- 
ing sandalwood paste, betel-leaf and an incense-burner, all 
in solid silver to the value of about Rs. looo ; water-pots 
and cooking vessels and a small bath in German silver 
costing Rs. 300 to Rs. 400 ; and a set of brass vessels.-^ 
General The Prabhus wear the sacred thread. In Bombay boys 

receive it a short time before their marriage without the 
ceremonies which form part of the regular Brahman in- 
vestiture. On the fifth day after the birth of a child, the 
sword and also pens, paper and ink are worshipped, the 
sword being the symbol of their Kshatriya origin and the 
pens, paper and ink of their present occupation of clerks," 
The funeral ceremonies, Mr. Enthoven writes, are performed 
during the first thirteen days after death. Oblations of rice 
are offered every day, in consequence of which the soul of 
the dead attains a spiritual body, limb by limb, till on the 
thirteenth day it is enabled to start on its journey. In 
twelve months the journey ends, and a shrdddh ceremony 
is performed on an extensive scale on the anniversary of 

^ A Prabhu Marriage, pp. 26-27. 
^ Boiidtay Ethnographic Stn-vey, art. Prabhu. 



the death. Most of the Prabhus are in Government service 
and others are landowners. In the l^ombay Presidency^ 
they had at first almost a monopoly of Government service 
as English writers, and the term Prabhu was commonly 
employed to denote a clerk of any caste who could write 
English. Both men and women of the caste arc generally 
of a fair complexion, resembling the Maratha Brahmans. 
The taste of the women in dress is proverbial, and when a 
Sunar, Sutar or Kasar woman has dressed herself in her 
best for some family festival, she will ask her friends, 
' Prabhttin distol or ' Do I look like a Prabhu ? ' 

Rag"huvansi, Raghvi. — A class of Rajputs of impure i- Histori- 
desccnt, who have now developed in the Central Provinces 
into a caste of cultivators, marrying among themselves. 
Their first settlement here was in the Nerbudda Valley, and 
Sir C. Elliott wrote of them : "' " They are a queer class, all 
professing to be Rajputs from Ajodhia, though on cross- 
examination thej^ are obliged to confess that they did not 
come here straight from Ajodhia, but stopped in Bundel- 
khand and the Gwalior territory by the way. They are 
obviously of impure blood as they marry only among them- 
selves ; but when they get wealthy and influential they 
assume the sacred thread, stop all familiarity with Gujars 
and Kirars (with whom they are accustomed to smoke the 
huqqa and to take water) and profess to be very high-caste 
Rajputs indeed." From Hoshangabad they have spread to 
Betul, Chhindwara and Nagpur and now number 24,000 
persons in all in the Central Provinces. Chhindwara, on the 
Satpura plateau, is supposed to have been founded by one 
Ratan Raghuvansi, who built the first house on the site, 
burying a goat alive under the foundations. The goat is 
still worshipped as the tutelary deity of the town. The 
name Raghuvansi is derived from Raja Raghu, king of 
Ajodhia and ancestor of the great Rama, the hero of the 
Ramayana. In Nagpur the name has been shortened to 
Raghvi, and the branch of the caste settled here is some- 
what looked down upon by their fellows in Hoshangabad. 

^ Bombay Gazetteer, ix. p. 68, footnotes. 
^ Hoshangabad Settlement Report {iZo"]), p. 60. 


404 RAGHUVANSI part 

Sir R. Craddock ^ states that their reh"gion is unorthodox 
and they have gurus or priests of their own caste, discarding 
Brahmans. Their names end in Deo. Their origin, how- 
ever, is still plainly discernible in their height, strength of 
body and fair complexion. The notice continues : ' What- 
ever may happen to other classes the Raghvi will never give 
way to the moneylender. Though he is fond of comfort he 
combines a good deal of thrift with it, and the clannish 
spirit of the caste would prevent any oppression of Raghvi 
tenants by a landlord or moneylender of their own body." 
In Chhindwara, Mr. Montgomerie states," they rank among 
the best cultivators, and formerly lived in clans, holding 
villages on bhaiacJidri or communal tenure. As malguzars 
or village proprietors, they are very prone to, absorb tenant 
land into their home-farms. 
Social The Raghuvansis have now a set of exogamous groups 

of the usual low-caste type, designated after titles, nicknames 
or natural objects. They sometimes invest their sons with 
the sacred thread at the time of marriage instead of perform- 
ing the proper thread ceremony. Some discard the cord after 
the wedding is over. At a marriage the Raghuvansis of 
Chhindwara and Nagpur combine the Hindustani custom of 
walking round the sacred pole with the Maratha one of 
throwing coloured rice on the bridal couple. Sometimes 
they have what is known as a gdnkar wedding. At this, 
flour, sugar and ghl'^ are the only kinds of food permissible, 
large cakes of flour and sugar being boiled in pitchers full 
of ghi^ and everybody being given as much of this as he ' 
can eat. The guests generally over-eat themselves, and as 
weddings are celebrated in the hot weather, one or two may 
occasionally die of repletion. The neighbours of Raghu- 
vansis say that the host considers such an occurrence as 
evidence of the complete success of his party, but this is 
probably a libel. Such a wedding feast may cost two or 
three thousand rupees. After the wedding the women of 
the bride's party attack those of the bridegroom's with 
bamboo sticks, while these retaliate by throwing red powder 
on them. The remarriage of widows is freely permitted, but 

' Nagpur Settlancnt Keporl. - Setllcmcitl Report. 

•* Preserved butler. 


a widow must be taken from the house of her own parents 
or relatives, and not from that of her first husband or his 
parents. In fact, if any members of the dead husband's 
family meet the second husband on the night of the wedding 
they will attack him and a serious affray may follow. On 
reaching her new house the woman enters it by a back door, 
after bathing and changing all her clothes. The old clothes 
are given away to a barber or washerman, and the presentation 
of new clothes by the second husband is the only essential 
ceremony. No wife will look on a widow's face on the 
night of her second marriage, for fear lest by doing so she 
should come to the same position. The majority of the 
caste abstain from liquor, and they eat flesh in some 
localities, but not in others. The men commonly wear 
beards divided by a shaven patch in the centre of the chin ; 
and the women have two body-cloths, one worn like a skirt 
according to the northern custom. Mr. Crooke states ^ that 
" in northern India a tradition exists among them that the 
cultivation of sugar is fatal to the farmer, and that the tiling 
of a house brings down divine displeasure upon the owner ; 
hence to this day no sugar is grown and not a tiled house 
is to be seen in their estates." These superstitions do not 
appear to be known at all in the Central Provinces. 

Rajjhar, Rajbhar, Lajjhar. — A caste of farmservants i. General 
found in the northern Districts. In 1 9 1 1 they numbered "°"'^^' 
about 8000 persons in the Central Provinces, being returned 
principally from the Districts of the Satpura plateau. The 
names Rajjhar and Rajbhar appear to be applied in- 
discriminately to the same caste, who are an offshoot of the 
great Bhar tribe of northern India. The original name 
appears to have been Raj Bhar, which signifies a landowning 
Bhar, like Raj-Gond, Raj-Korku and so on. In Mandla all 
the members of the caste were shown as Rajbhar in 1891, 
and Rajjhar in 1901, and the two names seem to be used 
interchangeably in other Districts in the same manner. 
Some section or family names, such as Bamhania, Patela, 
Barhele and others, are common to people calling themselves 
Rajjhar and Rajbhar. But, though practically the same 

^ Tribes and Castes, art. Rafrhuvansi. 

4o6 RAJJHAR part 

caste, the Rajjhars seem, in some localities, to be more 
backward and primitive than the Rajbhars. This is also the 
case in Berar, where they are commonly known as Lajjhar 
and are said to be akin to the Gonds. A Gond will there 
take food from a Lajjhar, but not a Lajjhar from a Gond. 
They are more Hinduised than the Gonds and have pro- 
hibited the killing or injuring of cows by some caste 

2. Origin The caste appears to be in part of mixed origin arising 
and sub- fj-Qm the unions of Hindu fathers with women of the Bhar 


tribe. Several of their family names are derived from those 
of other castes, as Bamhania (from Brahman), Sunarya (from 
Sunar), Baksaria (a Rajput sept), Ahlriya (an Ahir or cow- 
herd), and Bisatia from Bisati (a hawker). Other names 
are after plants or animals, as Baslya from the bans or 
bamboo, Mohanya from the moJiin tree, Chhitkaria from the 
sitapJial or custard-apple tree, Hardaya from the banyan 
tree, Richhya from the bear, and Dukhania from the buffalo. 
Members of this last sept will not drink buffalo's milk or 
wear black cloth, because this is the colour of their totem 
animal. Members of septs named after other castes have 
also adopted some natural object as a sept totem ; thus 
those of the Sunarya sept worship gold as being the metal 
with which the Sunar is associated. Those of the Bamhania 
sept revere the banyan and pipal trees, as these are held 
sacred by Brahmans. The Bakraria or Bagsaria sept believe 
their name to be derived from that of the bdgJi or tiger, and 
they worship this animal's footprints by tying a thread 
round them. 

3. Mar- The marriage of members of the same sept, and also 
riage. that of first cousius, is forbidden. The caste do not employ 

Brahmans at their marriage and other ceremonies, and they 
account for this somewhat quaintly by saying that their 
ancestors were at one time accustomed to rely on the calcu- 
lations of Brahman priests ; but many marriages which the 
Brahman foretold as auspicious turned out very much the 
reverse ; and on this account they have discarded the 
Brahman, and now determine the suitability or otherwise of 
a projected union by the common primitive custom of 

' Kitts' Berdr Census Report (1881), p. 157. 


throwing two grains of rice into a vessel of water and seeing 
whether they will meet. The truth is probably that they 
are too backward ever to have had recourse to the Brahman 
priest, but now, though they still apparently have no desire 
for his services, they recognise the fact to be somewhat 
discreditable to themselves, and desire to explain it away by 
the story already given. In Hoshangabad the bride still 
goes to the bridegroom's house to be married as among the 
Gonds. A bride-price is paid, which consists of four rupees, 
a khandi ^ of juari or wheat, and two pieces of cloth. This 
is received by the bride's father, who, however, has in turn 
to pay seven rupees eight annas and a goat to the caste 
panchayat or committee for the arrangement and sanction of 
the match. This last payment is known as Sharab-ka- 
nipaya or liquor-money, and with the goat furnishes the 
wherewithal for a sumptuous feast to the caste. The 
marriage-shed must be made of freshly-cut timber, which 
should not be allowed to fall to the ground, but must be 
supported and carried off on men's shoulders as it is cut. 
When the bridegroom arrives at the marriage-shed he is met 
by the bride's mother and conducted by her to an inner 
room of the house, where he finds the bride standing. He 
seizes her fist, which she holds clenched, and opens her 
fingers by force. The couple then walk five times round 
the cJiauk or sacred space made with lines of flour on the 
floor, the bridegroom holding the bride by her little finger. 
They are preceded by some relative of the bride, who walks 
round the post carrying a pot of water, with seven holes in 
it ; the water spouts from these holes on to the ground, and 
the couple must tread in it as they go round the post. This 
forms the essential and binding portion of the marriage. 
That night the couple sleep in the same room with a woman 
lying between them. Next day they return to the bride- 
groom's house, and on arriving at his door the boy's mother 
meets him and touches his head, breast and knees with a 
churning-stick, a winnowing-fan and a pestle, with the object 
of exorcising any evil spirits who may be accompanying the 
bridal couple. As the pair enter the marriage-shed erected 
before the bridegroom's house they are drenched with water 

1 About 400 lbs. 

4o8 RAJJHAR i-art 

by a man sitting on the roof, and when they come to the 
door of the house the bridegroom's younger brother, or some 
other boy, sits across it with his legs stretched out to prevent 
the bride from entering. The girl pushes his legs aside and 
goes into the house, where she stays for three months with 
her husband, and then returns to her parents for a year. 
After this she is sent to her husband with a basket of fried 
cakes and a piece of cloth, and takes up her residence with 
him. When a widow is to be married, the couple pour 
turmeric and water over each other, and then walk seven 
times round in a circle In an empty space, holding each 
other by the hand. A widow commonly marries her 
deceased husband's younger brother, but is not compelled to 
do so. Divorce is permitted for adultery on the part of the 
4. Social The caste bury their dead with the head pointing to the 

customs, ^yggj-. This practice is peculiar, and is also followed. Colonel 
Dalton states, by the hill Bhuiyas of Bengal, who in so doing 
honour the quarter of the setting sun. When a burial takes 
place, all the mourners who accompany the corpse throw a 
little earth into the grave. On the same day some food 
and liquor are taken to the grave and offered to the dead 
man's spirit, and a feast is given to the caste-fellows. This 
concludes the ceremonies of mourning, and the next day the 
relatives go about their business. The caste are usually 
petty cultivators and labourers, while they also collect grass 
and fuel for sale, and propagate the lac insect. In Seoni 
they have a special relation with the Ahirs, from whom they 
will take cooked food, while they say that the AhIrs will 
also eat from their hands. In Narsinghpur a similar con- 
nection has been observed between the Rajjhars and the 
Lodhi caste. This probably arises from the fact that the 
former have worked for several generations as the farm- 
servants of Lodhi or Ahir employers, and have been accus- 
tomed to live in their houses and partake of their meals, 
so that caste rules have been abandoned for the sake of 
convenience. A similar intimacy has been observed between 
the Panwars and Gonds, and other castes who stand in this 
relation to each other. The Rajjhars will also eat katcha 
food (cooked with water) from Kunbis and Kahars. But in 


Hoshangabad some of them will not take food from any 
caste, even from Brahmans. Their women wear glass 
bangles only on the right hand, and a brass ornament 
known as indtJii on the left wrist. They wear no ornaments 
in the nose or cars, and have no breast-clotii. They are 
tattooed with dots on the face and patterns of animals on 
the right arm, but not on the left arm or legs. A liaison 
between a youth and maiden of the caste is considered a 
trifling matter, being punished only with a fine of two to 
four annas or pence. A married woman detected in an 
intrigue is mulcted in a sum of four or five rupees, and 
if her partner be a man of another caste a lock of her hair 
is cut off. The caste are generally ignorant and dirty, and 
are not much better than the Gonds and other forest tribes. 


[The following article is based mainly on Colonel Tod's classical Annals and 
Antiquities of Rdjasthan, 2nd ed., Madras, Higginbotham, 1873, ^-^d Mr. 
Crooke's articles on the Rajput clans in his Tribes and Castes of the North- 
western Provinces and Oudh. Much information as to the origin of the Rajput 
clans has been obtained from inscriptions and worked up mainly by the late Mr. 
A. M. T. Jackson and Messrs. B. G. and D. R. Bhandarkar ; this has been set out 
with additions and suggestions in Mr. V. A. Smith's Early History of India, 3rd 
ed., and has been reproduced in the subordinate articles on the different clans. 
Though many of the leading clans are very weakly represented in the Central 
Provinces, some notice of them is really essential in an article treating generally 
of the Rajput caste, on however limited a scale, and has therefore been included. 
In four cases, Panwar, Jadum, Raghuvansi and Daharia, the original Rajput clans 
have now developed into separate cultivating castes, ranking well below the 
Rajputs ; separate articles have been written on these as for independent castes.] 


1. Introductory notice. 

2. The thirty-six royal races. 

3. The origin of the Rdjpiifs. 

4. Subdivisions of the clans. 

5. Marriage customs. 

6. Funeral rites. 

7. Religion. 

8. Food. 

9. Opiitni. 

\o. Improved training of Rcifptlt 

Social customs. 
Seclusion of women. 
Traditional character of the 

1 1. 


15. Occupation. 






















1 1. 



Gaharwar, Gherwal. 


Gaur, Chamar-Gaur. 


Haihaya, Haihaivansi, Kala- 



Huna, Hoon. 


Kachhwaha, Cutchvvaha. 










Rathor, Rathaur. 



111 RAJPUT 411 

Sesodia, Gahlot, Aharia. 26. Tomaia, Tuar, Tunwar. 

Solanklii, Solanki, Chalukya. 27. Yfidu, Yadava, Yadu-Bhatti, 

24. Somvansi, Chandravansi. Jadon. 

25. Surajvansi. 

Rajput, Kshatriya, Chhatri, Thakur. — The Rajputs are i. intro- 
the representatives of the old Kshatriya or warrior class, '^"'^.^^'T 

>■ -' ' notice. 

the second of the four main castes or orders of classical 
Hinduism, and were supposed to have been made originally 
from the arms of Brahma. The old name of Kshatriya is still 
commonly used in the Hindi form Chhatri, but the designa- 
tion Rajput, or son of a king, has now superseded it as the 
standard name of the caste. Thakur, or lord, is the common 
Rajput title, and that by which they are generally addressed. 
The total number of persons returned as Rajputs in the 
Province in 191 i was about 440,000. India has about 
nine million Rajputs in all, and they are most numerous in 
the Punjab, the United Provinces, and Bihar and Orissa, 
Rajputana returning under 700,000 and Central India about 

The bulk of the Rajputs in the Central Provinces are of 
very impure blood. Several groups, such as the Panwars of 
the Wainganga Valley, the Raghuvansis of Chhindwara and 
Nagpur, the Jadams of Hoshangabad and the Daharias of 
Chhattlsgarh, have developed into separate castes and marry 
among themselves, though a true Rajput must not marry in 
his own clan. Some of them have abandoned the sacred 
thread and now rank with the good cultivating castes below 
Banias. Reference may be made to the separate articles on 
these castes. Similarly the Surajvansi, Gaur or Gorai, 
Chauhan, and Bagri clans marry among themselves in the 
Central Provinces, and it is probable that detailed research 
would establish the same of many clans or parts of clans 
bearing the narne of Rajput in all parts of India. If the 
definition of a proper Rajput were taken, as it .should be 
correctly, as one whose family intermarried with clans of 
good standing, the caste would be reduced to comparatively 
small dimensions. The name Dhakar, also shown as a 
Rajput clan, is applied to a person of illegitimate birth, like 
Vidur. Over 100,000 persons, or nearly a quarter of the 
total, did not return the name of any clan in 191 1, and 


these are all of mixed or illegitimate descent. They are 
numerous in Nimar, and are there known as chhoti-tur or low- 
class Rajputs. The Bagri Rajputs of Seoni and the Suraj- 
vansis of Betal marry among themselves, while the Bundelas 
of Saugor intermarry with two other local groups, the 
Panwar and Dhundhele, all the three being of impure blood. 
In Jubbulpore a small clan of persons known as Paik or 
foot-soldier return themselves as Rajputs, but are no doubt a 
mixed low-caste group. Again, some landholding sections 
of the primitive tribes have assumed the names of Rajput 
clans. Thus the zamindars of Bilaspur, who originally 
belonged to the Kawar tribe, call themselves Tuar or Tomara 
Rajputs, and the landholding section of the Mundas in 
Chota Nagpur say that they are of the Nagvansi clan. 
Other names are returned which are not those of Rajput 
clans or their offshoots at all. If these subdivisions, which 
cannot be considered as proper Rajputs, and all those who 
have returned no clan be deducted, there remain not more 
than 100,000 who might be admitted to be pure Rajputs in 
Rajputana. But a close local scrutiny even of these would 
no doubt result in the detection of many persons who have 
assumed and returned the names of good clans without 
being entitled to them. And many more would come 
away- as being the descendants of remarried widows. 
A Rajput of really pure family and descent is in fact a 
person of some consideration in most parts of the Central 
2. The Traditionally the Rajputs are divided into thirty-six 

thirty-six grreat clans or races, of which Colonel Tod gives a list 

royal races. ^ ' ° _ 

compiled from different authorities as follows (alternative 
names by which the clan or important branches of it are 
known are shov/n in brackets) : 

1. Ikshwaka or Surajvansi. 7. Kachliwaha (Cutchwaha). 

2. Indu, Somvansi or Chandra- 8. Pramara or Panwar (Mori). 

vansi. 9. Chauhan (Hilra, Khichi, 

3. Gahlot or Scsodia (Raghu- Nikumbh, Bhadauria). 

vansi). 10. Chalukyaor Solankhi(Baghel). 

4. Yadu (Bhalti, Jareja, Jildon, 11. Parihar. 

Banaphar). 12. Chawara or Chaura. 

5. Tuar or Tomara. 13. Tak or Takshac (Nagvansi, 

6. Rathor. Mori). 



Jit or Gete. 










Jaitwa or Kamari 












Doda or Dor. 


Gherwal or Gaharwar (Bun 






















And two extra, Hul and Daharia. 

Several of the above races are extinct or nearly so, and 
on the other hand some very important modern clans, as the 
Gautam, Dikhit and Bisen, and such historically important 
ones as the Chandel and Haihaya, are not included in 
the thirty-six royal races at all. Practically all the clans 
should belong either to the solar and lunar branch, that is, 
should be descended from the sun or moon, but the division, 
if it ever existed, is not fully given by Colonel Tod. Two 
special clans, the Surajvansi and Chandra or Somvansi, are 
named after the sun and moon respectively ; and a few 
others, as the Sesodia, Kachhwaha, Gohil, Bais and Badgijjar, 
are recorded as being of the solar race, descended from 
Vishnu through his incarnation as Rama. The Rathors also 
claimed solar lineage, but this was not wholly conceded by 
the Bhats, and the Dikhits are assigned to the solar branch 
by their legends. The great clan of the Yadavas, of v/hom the 
present Jadon or Jadumand Bhatti Rajputs are representatives, 
was of the lunar race, tracing their descent from Krishna, 
though, as a matter of fact, Krishna was also an incarnation of 
Vishnu or the sun ; and the Tuar or Tomara, as well as the 
Jit or Gete, the Rajput section of the modern Jats, who were 
considered to be branches of the Yadavas, would also be of 
the moon division. The Gautam and Bisen clans, who are 
not included in the thirty-six royal races, now claim lunar 
descent. Four clans, the Panwar, Chauhan, Chaluk)-a or 
Solankhi, and Parihar, had a different origin, being held to 
have been born through the agency of the gods from a fire- 
pit on the summit of Mount Abu. They are hence known 
as Agnikula or the fire races. Several clans, such as the 


Tak or Takshac, the Huna.and the Chaura, were considered 
by Colonel Tod to be the representatives of the Huns or 
Scythians, that is, the nomad invading tribes from Central 
Asia, whose principal incursions took place during the first 
five centuries of the Christian era. 

At least six of the thirty-six royal races, the Sarweya, 
Silar, Doda or Dor, Dahia, Johia and Mohil, were extinct 
in Colonel Tod's time, and others were represented only 
by small settlements in Rajputana and Surat. On the 
other hand, there are now a large number of new clans, 
whose connection with the thirty-six is doubtful, though in 
many cases they are probably branches of the old clans 
who have obtained a new name on settling in a different 
3. The It was for long the custom to regard the Rajputs as 

origin ^Yie direct descendants and representatives of the old 
Rajputs. Kshatriya or warrior class of the Indian Aryans, as described 
in the Vedas and the great epics. Even Colonel Tod by 
no means held this view in its entirety, and modern 
epigraphic research has caused its partial or complete 
~ abandonment. Mr. V. A. Smith indeed says : ^ " The main 
points to remember are that the Kshatriya or Rajput caste 
is essentially an occupational caste, composed of all clans 
following the Hindu ritual who actually undertook the act 
of government ; that consequently people of most diverse 
races were and are lumped together as Rajputs, and that^ 
most of the great clans now in existence are descended either 
from foreign immigrants of the fifth or sixth century A.D. 
or from indigenous races such as the Gonds and Bhars.") 
Colonel Tod held three clans, the Tak or Takshac, the Huna 
and the Chaura, to be descended from Scythian or nomad 
Central Asian immigrants, and the same origin has been given 
for the Haihaya. The Huna clan actually retains the name 
of the White Huns, from whose conquests in the fifth century 
it probably dates its existence. The principal clan of the 
lunar race, the Yadavas, are said to have first settled in 
Delhi and at Dwarka in Gujarat. But on the death of 
Krishna, who was their prince, they were expelled from 

• Early Ilislory of India (Oxford, Clarendon Press), 3rd edition, p. 
414. ' ' 


these places, and retired across the Indus, settling in 
Afghanistan. Again, for some reason which the account 
does not clearly explain, they came at a later period to 
India and settled first in the Punjab and afterwards in 
Rajputana. The Jit or Jat and the Tomara clans were 
branches of the Yadavas, and it is supposed that the Jits or 
Jats were also descended from the nomad invading tribes, 
possibly from the Yueh-chi tribe who conquered and occupied 
the Punjab during the first and second centuries.' The 
legend of the Yadavas, who lived in Gujarat with their 
chief Krishna, but after his defeat and death retired to 
Central Asia, and at a later date returned to India, 
would appear to correspond fairly well with the Saka 
invasion of the second century B.C. which penetrated to 
Kathiawar and founded a dynasty there. In A.D, 124 
the second Saka king was. defeated by the Andhra king 
Vilivayakura II. and his kingdom destroyed.^ But at 
about the same period, the close of the first century, 
a fresh horde of the Sakas came to Gujarat from Central 
Asia and founded another kingdom, which lasted until it 
was subverted by Chandragupta Vikramaditya about A.D, 
390.^ The historical facts about the Sakas, as given on 
the authority of Mr. V. A. Smith, thus correspond fairly 
closely with the Yadava legend. And the later Yueh-chi 
immigrants might well be connected by the Bhats with the 
Saka hordes who had come at an earlier date from the 
same direction, and so the Jats ^ might be held to be an 
offshoot of the Yadavas. This connection of the Yadava and 
Jat legends with the facts of the immigration of the Sakas 
and Yueh-chi appears a plausible one, but may be contra- 
dicted by historical arguments of which the writer is 
ignorant. If it were correct wc should be justified in 
identifying the lunar clans of Rajputs with the early 
Scythian immigrants of the first and second centuries. 
Another point is that Buddha is said to be the progenitor 

* Early History of India, pp. 252, was changed to Jat by a section of 

254. them who also adopted Muhamniadan- 

- Ibidem, p. 210. ism. Colonel Tod also identifies the 

■' Ibidem, p. 227. Jals or Jits with the Vueh-chi as 

■' Colonel Tod states that the proper suggested in the text {Rdjastlidit, i. 

name of the caste was Jit or Jat, and p. 97). 


of the whole Indu or lunar race.^ It is obvious that Buddha 
had no real connection with these Central Asian tribes, as 
he died some centuries before their appearance in India. 
But the Yueh-chi or Kushan kings of the Punjab in the 
first and second centuries A.D. were fervent Buddhists and 
established that religion in the Punjab. Hence we can 
easily understand how, if the Yadus or Jats and other 
lunar clans were descended from the Saka and Yueh-chi 
immigrants, the legend of their descent from Buddha, who 
was himself a Kshatriya, might be devised for them by their 
bards when they were subsequently converted from Buddhism 
to Hinduism, The Sakas of western India, on the other hand, 
who it is suggested may be represented by the Yadavas, were 
not Buddhists in the beginning, whether or not they became 
so afterwards. But as has been seen, though Buddha was 
their first progenitor, Krishna was also their king while they 
were in Gujarat, so that at this time they must have been 
supposed to be Hindus. The legend of descent from 
Buddha arising with the Yueh-chi or Kushans might have 
been extended to them. Again, the four Agnikula or fire- 
born clans, the Parihar, Chalukya or Solankhi, Panwar and 
Chauhan, are considered to be the descendants of the White 
Hun and Gujar invaders of the fifth and sixth centuries. 
These clans were said to have been created by the gods 
from a firepit on the summit of Mount Abu for the re-birth 
of the Kshatriya caste after it had been exterminated by 
the slaughter of Parasurama the Brahman. And it has 
been suggested that this legend refers to the cruel massacres 
of the Huns, by which the bulk of the old aristocracy, then 
mainly l^ddhist, was wiped out ; while the Huns and 
Gujars, one at least of whose leaders was a fervent adherent 
of Brahmanism and slaughtered the Buddhists of the Punjab, 
became the new fire-born clans on being absorbed into 
Hinduism.'^ The name of the Huns is still retained in the 
Huna clan, now almost extinct. There remain the clans 
descended from the sun through Rama, and it would be 

' Kajasthaii, i. p. 42. Mr. Crooke the names seem to have a common 

points out that the Buddha here referred origin. 
to is probably the planet Mercury. 

But it is possible that he may have been ^ See also separate articles on Pan- 
identified with the religious reformer as war, Rajput and Giijar. 


tempting to suppose that these are the representatives of 
the old Aryan Kshatriyas. Ikit Mr. Jihandarkar has shown ^ 
that the Sesodias, the premier clan of the solar race and 
of all Rajputs, are probably sprung from Nagar lirahmans 
of Gujarat, and hence from the Gujar tribes ; and it must 
therefore be supposed that the story of solar origin and 
divine ancestry was devised because they were once 
Bruhmans, and hence, in the view of the bards, of more 
honourable origin than the other clans. Similarly the 
Badgujar clan, also of solar descent, is shown by its name 
of darn or great Gujar to have been simply an aristocratic 
section of the Gujars ; while the pedigree of the Rathors, 
another solar clan, and one of those who have shed most 
lustre on the Rajput name, was held to be somewhat 
doubtful by the Bhats, and their solar origin was not fully 
admitted. Mr. Smith gives two great clans as very probably 
of aboriginal or Dravidian origin, the Gaharwar or Gherwal, 
from whom the Bundelas are derived, and the Chandel, who 
ruled Bundelkhand from the ninth to the twelfth centuries, 
and built the fine temples at Mahoba, Kalanjar and 
Khajaraho as well as making many great tanks. This 
corresponds with Colonel Tod's account, which gives no 
place to the Chandels among the thirty-six royal races, and 
states that the Gherwal Rajput is scarcely known to his 
brethren in Rajasthan, who will not admit his contaminated 
blood to mix with theirs, though as a brave warrior he is 
entitled to their fellowship." Similarly the Kathi clan may 
be derived from the indigenous Kathi tribe who gave their 
name to Kathiawar. And the Surajvansi, Somvansi and 
Nagvansi clans, or descendants of the sun, moon and snake, 
which are scarcely known in Rajputana, may represent 
landholding sections of lower castes or non-Aryan tribes 
who have been admitted to Rajput rank. But even though 
it be found that the majority of the Rajput clans cannot 
boast a pedigree dating farther back than the first five 
centuries of our era, this is at any rate an antiquity to which 
few if any of the greatest European houses can lay claim. 
Many of the great clans are now split up into a number 

1 J.A.S.B., 1909, p. 167, Giihilots. See also annexed article on Rajput Sesodia. 

- Ibidem, i. p. 105. 

VOL. IV 2 E 


4. Sub- of branches. The most important of these were according 
fhrcians"^ to locality, the different sachae or branches being groups 
settled in separate areas. Thus the Chalukya or Solankhi 
had sixteen branches, of which the Baghels of Rewah or 
Baghelkhand were the most important. The Panwars had 
thirty-five branches, of which the Mori and the Dhunda, now 
perhaps the Dhundele of Saugor, are the best known. The 
Gahlot had twenty-four branches, of which one, the Sesodia, 
became so important that it has given its name to the whole 
clan. The Chamar-Gaur section of the Gaur clan now claim 
a higher rank than the other Gaurs, though the name would 
apparently indicate the appearance of a Chamar in their 
family tree ; while the Tilokchandi Bais form an aristo- 
cratic section of the Bais clan, named after a well-known 
king, Tilokchand, who reigned in upper India about the 
twelfth century and is presumably claimed by them as an 
ancestor. Besides this the Rajputs \va.v& gotras, named after 
eponymous saints exactly like the Brahman gotras, and 
probably adopted in imitation of the Brahmans. Since, 
theoretically, marriage is prohibited in the whole clan, the 
gotra divisions would appear to be useless, but Sir H. Risley 
states that persons of the same clan but with different gotras 
have begun to intermarry. Similarly it would appear that 
the different branches of the great clans mentioned above 
must intermarry in some cases ; while in the Central 
Provinces, as already stated, several clans have become 
regular castes and form endogamous and not exogamous 
groups. In northern India, however, Mr. Crooke's accounts 
of the different clans indicate that marriage within the clan 
is as a rule not permitted. The clans themselves and their 
branches have different degrees of rank for purposes of 
marriage, according to the purity of their descent, while 
in each clan or subclan there is an inferior section formed 
of the descendants of remarried widows, or even the offspring 
of women of another caste, who have probably in the course 
of generations not infrequently got back into their father's 
clan. Thus many groups of varying status arise, and one of 
the principal rules of a Rajput's life was that he must marry 
his daughter, sometimes into a clan of equal, or sometimes 
into one of higher rank than his own. Hence arose great 


difficulty in arranging the marriages of girls and sometimes 
the payment of a price to the bridegroom ; while in order 
to retain the favour of the Bhats and avoid their sarcasm, 
lavish expenditure had to be incurred by the bride's father 
on presents to these rapacious mendicants/ Thus a daughter 
became in a Rajput's eyes a long step on the road to ruin, 
and female infanticide was extensively practised. This crime 
has never been at all common in the Central Provinces, 
where the rule of marrying a daughter into an equal or 
higher clan has not been enforced with the same strictness 
as in northern India. But occasional instances formerly 
occurred in which the child's neck was placed under one leg 
of its mother's cot, or it was poisoned with opium or by 
placing the juice of the dkra or swallow-wort plant on the 
mother's nipple. 

Properly the proposal for a Rajput marriage should 5. Mar- 
emanate from the bride's side, and the customary method of "us^jon^s 
making it was to send a cocoanut to the bridegroom. ' The 
cocoanut came,' was the phrase used to intimate that a 
proposal of marriage had been made.^ It is possible that 
the bride's initiative was a relic of the Swayamwara or 
maiden's choice, when a king's daughter placed a garland on 
the neck of the youth she preferred among the competitors 
in a tournament, and among some Rajputs the Jayamala or 
garland of victory is still hung round the bridegroom's neck 
in memory of this custom ; but it may also have been due 
to the fact that the bride had to pay the dowry. One tenth 
of this was paid as earnest when the match had been 
arranged, and the boy's party could not then recede from it. 
At the entrance of the marriage-shed was hung the toran, a 
triangle of three wooden bars, having the apex crowned with 
the effigy of a peacock. The bridegroom on horseback, 
lance in hand, proceeded to break the toran, which was 
defended by the damsels of the bride. They assailed him 
with missiles of various kinds, and especially with red powder 
made from the flowers of the palas "^ tree, at the same time 
singing songs full of immoral allusions. At length the 

1 See also article Bhat. 3 Puiga frondosa. This powder is 

also used at the Holi festival and has 
- Riijasthan, i. pp. 231, 232. some sexual significance. 


toran was broken amid the shouts of the retainers, and the 
fair defenders retired. If the bridegroom could not attend 
in person his sword was sent to represent him,